The Story of Pakistan’s Barefoot Sanitation Consultants

As of 2006, some 50 million people still practice open defecation in Pakistan, according to the 2006 report of the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) . In order to become Open Defecation Free (ODF) just building toilets is not enough. The key is to raise awareness and change communities’ behavior. The Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) movement has realized this, using its ability to empower communities and motivate them to take collective action in partnership with local governments, agencies, and civil society organizations.
WSP has produced a short animated film, The Story of Younis, depicting a barefoot sanitation consultant using the principles of CLTS to empower and motivate the village to improve their sanitation. The CLTS movement then spreads to other villages in the area and gives rise to a sanitation industry. Soon a market for selling sanitation products develops, and other sanitation consultants who receive on the job training are hired to keep up with demand. Improved sanitation leads to improved health, financial rewards, improved environment, and an improved sense of dignity, privacy, and safety when using the toilet.
The sanitation situation in Pakistan poses serious challenges and demands a change at the household level. Some 45 percent of the rural population defecate in the open (JMP), 60 percent of the total child mortality cases are caused by water and sanitation-related diseases (USAID), and the World Bank Strategic Environmental Assessment for Pakistan estimates the total health costs from water and sanitation related diseases of diarrhea and typhoid at 112 billion rupees, or 1.81 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
The CLTS movement provides a way to fight these challenges. Although already well established in Pakistan, the CLTS movement still needs further support to build capacity to start sanitation movements in new regions, initiate demand for improved sanitation, and facilitate the role of markets. Stories of barefoot sanitation consultants have already started to bring hope to many communities dealing with significant sanitation problems.
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Irene Leino
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