Often, households and communities low in socioeconomic status face pressing public health concerns that contribute to rising rates of mortality. Within a rural village of Benin, open defecation dominates the sanitation landscape, and lack of access to sanitation resources increase infectious disease exposure. A sustainable approach to combat this community-addressed health issue calls for the investment in the capacity building of human resource development.
The community-led total sanitation project uses a participatory approach to empower members in sustaining an open defecation-free community through a household combined community-level sanitation intervention, promotion of positive hygienic behavioral change, and project management knowledge/skills transfer. The initiative includes the construction of 10 sanitation facilities (ventilated-improved double pit latrines) and hand-washing stations among selected households to prioritize basic sanitation coverage where most needed. The construction acts on the existing health concern of human waste disposal for families restricted from resource access, as well as serving as a practice-integrated pilot to expand on the capacity of community leaders in meeting needs collectively. The district and local health authorities/clinics and village leaders are partnering with community health workers, construction groups, and schools to design and implement the plan of action for improved community health outcomes. Contributions from the community, comprising of in-kind and monetary donations, will cover a portion of the costs. Support from international partners is much appreciated to reach the community’s goal of reducing disease transmission, increasing use of proper hygienic practices, and eliminating open defecation.
The partnership project aligns with the first goal of Peace Corps to meet needs of the community through local change agents. The sanitation project’s implementation is inherently dependent on community action. Empowerment, sustainability, and inclusive participation serve as the framework of this collective effort to foster long-term prosperity and health for all members of the community.