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Communal latrines in Konobougou, 150km east of Bamako in the Ségou region of Mali
The African Development Bank is commemorating World Toilet Day on Thursday, 19 November at its headquarters in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire with the key message that toilets are worth investing in.
Inadequate sanitation drains an average 1.5% of the GDP of African countries. The highest cost is in public health. Fecal matter contaminates water sources, the direct cause of diarrhea and malaria, two of Africa’s top five killer diseases. The contamination is also directly linked to cholera outbreaks, an epidemic which necessitates the mobilization of emergency funds and which constitutes a severe burden on community life and economic activities. More insidiously, contamination by human feces can lead to stunted growth and impaired intellectual and cognitive development of children.
The Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) Trust Fund, hosted by the AfDB, allocated a grant of almost €11 million to a six-year program run by the Government of Mali, a country which invests in Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and which has been supported by the AfDB for over 10 years.
The RWSSI funds aimed at raising awareness on the importance of building and maintaining latrines in three rural regions, namely Gao, Koulikoro and Segou. Knowledge of the relationship between oral-fecal disease transmission, and waterborne diseases was initially low. RWSSI funds have since supported the creation of women’s associations (WaSHCOs) and provided training on basic health and hygiene practices.
“In the beginning, many families were reluctant to contribute the necessary €50 towards the building costs of household latrines and washbasins. However, when they saw the satisfaction of the pioneer families, there was strong uptake of the offer,” says Souleymane Coulybaly, the Mayor of Sirakorola, which groups 55 villages in Koulikoro region
He adds that “since the latrines have been built, there are less mosquitos and the community has noticed that there are fewer cases of malaria”. Improved sanitation has significantly improved quality of life, particularly for women, who bear the brunt of caring for the sick.
Community-led total sanitation works have changed the attitude of local people to toilets, according to Moussa Cissoko, Regional Sanitation Director in Koulikoro. “The population realizes the importance of using latrines for their health and the demand is now very high.”
Similarly, women who manage some of the communal latrines speak of a high demand for, and profitability of the service, particularly on market days.
Open defecation in rural areas of Mali has decreased during the 20-year period (1995-2015) from an estimated 33% to around 15% (WHO-UNICEF JMP data). This is good news for Mali’s economy and eases the burden of health costs, particularly for the poorest segments of the population, who are also the most vulnerable to water-borne diseases.
“RWSSI has a ‘furthest behind first strategy’
on the premise that every euro spent to improve sanitation in the poorest areas will have the biggest impact in terms of return on investment and improved quality of life,” explained Mohamed El Azizi, Director of the Water and Sanitation Department at the AfDB.
In addition to capacity-building, a total of 15,000 household sanitation blocks and 115 communal latrines in market places and stations have been built under the RWSSI program in Mali.