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Creating community and fighting disease

Poverty is isolating. And when people live in extreme poverty in rural areas, like Volta, where families and farms are spread out, it can be very hard to build community. Yet community is the very thing that’s needed for development.

Improved sanitation is one of the best examples of how local people can come together to address critical development issues, like health, through collective action.

With the support of community sponsors, like you, people in Volta are tackling infectious disease – a persistent problem in this area that keeps working parents home, children from school and infant mortality rates high.

One of the major causes of this health threat is the absence of a community-wide sanitation system. In Volta, like thousands of communities around the world, there was no proper waste management. The few latrines available for public use were insanitary and located near the river, contributing to water-borne illnesses. Additionally, the bushy terrain around homes and schools was used for waste disposal, contaminating ground water and serving as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the spread of malaria.

Smiling community members sweep and tidy together.

Community members find that “many hands make light work” on their weekly cleaning days!

Through community outreach and the formation of local health committees, public awareness of the relationship between disease and sanitation increased, and people were able to come together to devise and implement a plan for improving local sanitation and waste management.

In total, 20 new home latrines were constructed, a safe waste disposal area was created and waste bins were placed in various locations to prevent littering. Men, women and youth all came together in one big push to sweep the streets, weed grass, clear bushes and properly dispose of garbage.

After seeing the effectiveness of the communal cleaning efforts, they vowed to maintain the practices and resulting environmental improvements. Now, every five days, school and community groups actively manage community clean ups, drawing out hundreds of volunteers committed to keeping their community safe and clean.

A woman stands in front of a latrine.

Rose, 45, is a proud new owner of a home latrine.

“Our community is now a sight to behold and is much transformed,” says Simon, a local committee chairman, noting an increase in people’s confidence and feelings of communal ownership and pride. In fact, neighbouring communities have even begun admiring the community for their initiative, hoping to duplicate their success.

But it’s the reduction in local illness and the shared feelings of improved well-being that are perhaps the best evidence of the power of community and the impact this investment has had in the hands of local people.

“Through the awareness created and trainings, I have learned and practice good personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness,” says Rose, 45. “I now hold my head high and invite my friends to come and visit me. I feel very proud to say I come from my community.”

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