North Tarawa becomes 'open defecation free'
The community on North Tarawa has built a public toilet and become the first island in Kiribati to become 'open defecation free.'
Kiribati's North Tarawa Island has been declared 'open defecation free' - the first island in the Pacific to do so.
The nation's use of bathroom facilities is limited, with people defecating on beaches or bushes. This has caused a number of sanitation-related health issues for the country.
Nuzhat Shahzadi is the head of UNICEF's Kiribati field office. She told Jamie Tahana how the community of North Tarawa has changed this, and become open defecation free.
SHAHZADI: What we did was we started the concept of Community Led Total Sanitation. This method empowers the communities to understand what is the problem, what they are doing, what kind of behaviour is required, how they manage their defecation, and what connection defecation has with diarrhoea and other health-related issues. So they understood that open defecation is unhealthy. The flies and the animals are taking it around. And people are ending up eating each other's shit, frankly speaking, because their hands are not washed, there is some residue which is left here and there. So they were awakened and they developed methods how they go about it. They actually identified some locations where their houses are, where they could build their local toilets, and these toilets are made, they dig a hole, they use the local materials like two pieces of brick as a foot stool and with the coconut leaves they have made the structure. And they have kept water and soap inside the toilet, so that after they use it they can wash their hands. They covered the pit and they also used ash to prevent the smell and flies getting in. And they also understand that after some time, depends on the number of people using that pit, that it will be filled up. And then they'll have to dig another pit nearby and they start using that. After a few months the closed pit will be ready for manure.
TAHANA: How much of a problem is open defecation in Kiribati?
SHAHZADI: It's quite huge. 70% of the population in the outer islands, they do not have any kind of toilet, so they use the beach and the bushes for defecation. It's quite a big problem. North Tarawa is very interesting - they went back. Five months ago I have visited North Tarawa and I almost stepped in somebody's defecation. It was so bad, it was so smelly. But I went back with the team on Saturday, we found that the beach was so clean. And the High Commissioner of Australia, he commented. He said, 'This is one of the cleanest places in Kiribati. We should look and see how we can bring in guests from outside and have a feel of the nature and enjoy the beach'. It was so clean.
TAHANA: Are there any plans to spread this to the rest of Kiribati, maybe South Tarawa or the outer islands?
SHAHZADI: We will not be free if South Tarawa and the other islands are not free of this unhealthy practise of defecating in the open and in the bushes and the beach. So we are trying to strategise how we can generate funds from other areas beyond the EU project and human resources to really mobilise and work in South Tarawa and the islands.
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