How can community participation improve sanitary conditions?

Healthy villages in DRC

In Kasai-Oriental Province, the Central 4 and Bakua Bowa villages serve as examples. In these two villages, the community participation has been the key to the success of the sustainable achievements of the National Healthy School and Village Program (PNEVA).

Maintaining the water supply point thanks to the Community revenue

In Central 4 village, located 30 kilometers from Mbuji Mayi, the participation of the population was effective thanks to the involvement of the village chief, Fortunat Ilunga Luaba. After failing to meet the second sanitation standard (at least 80% of the population with access to drinking water), the village chief urgently convened a meeting with members of the Village Committee (Covilla) and members of the Local Facilitation Team (EFL). An in-depth analysis allowed to highlight that the lack of maintenance of the water supply point is at the root of the recurring diarrhea outbreak in the community.

Following this meeting, the whole community decided to spruce up the revenue of the community fund in order to be able to service and maintain the water supply point. A 7-chip token system has been put in place, representing the number days in the week. A member of Covilla, present at the water supply point, gives the token to each household averaging a weekly payment of 100 Congolese Francs (about 0.06 USD).

After the implementation of the token system, over 60.000 CF (about 38 USD) were collected to restore the water point. For a transparent revenue management, the disbursement of funds is supervised by the president of Covilla, his treasurer, and the health center head nurse. A cement bag was purchased and the masonry work was completed by a specialized local workforce, trained under the PNEVA. The community has also helped by providing transportation of local materials (sand, water, and rubble) and by feeding the masons.

Also, in order to ensure the proper use of the water supply point by the community, EFL leaders and members intensified their community outreach activities. They focus on the importance of maintaining the water point and contributing to the village community fund.

At the village Central 4, Community ownership of the water supply point was one of the keys for a successful sustainable intervention. The members of the Village Committee, the Local Facilitation Team, and the entire community succeeded in mobilizing themselves to maintain their water supply point in order to keep it operating.

Rehabilitating a school thanks to parents’ contributions

At Bakua Bowa village, located at 25 kilometers from Mbuji Mayi, the community was mobilized to rehabilitate one of the village’s primary schools. The condition of the Lukana school buildings no longer meets PNEVA criteria, which requires the construction of the school with sustainable or semi-durable materials to benefit from a donation of a sanitary latrine. The school had failed to meet the third sanitation standard (at least 80% of girls and boys use sanitary latrines).

The parents’ committee, the school community, and other community members have sought to solve this problem to enable the 639 pupils to study in good hygienic and sanitary conditions. Thus, they agreed to request a financial contribution from the students’ parents for the amount of 500 CF per month and per student (about 0.3 USD). The amount raised was used to finance the purchase of wood, metal sheets, bricks, and pay the labor for the renovation of the school buildings. The members of the community mobilized by bringing water and sand as well as by feeding the masons.

Since the new building meets PNEVA criteria, latrines are currently under construction. Implemented by the DRC Red Cross with financial support from UNICEF, the construction works also profit from the support of the community involved in the transportation of materials.

Healthy schools and villages in DRC

The National Healthy School and Village Programme is a community-based program that aims at the prevention of diarrheal disease and other conditions related to the lack of access to drinking water, poor hygiene practices, and inadequate sanitation in both rural and peri-urban areas.

The strategy for its implementation is based on a progressive process of local decision-making aimed at improving sanitary conditions and adopting good hygienic practices within households. Community participation is the key to the success of this program because it makes it possible for the benefiting communities to take ownership since they are at the center of to the health problem-solving process by involving all members of the community. These members contribute materially and financially to the maintenance of the program’s achievements, an impetus for the development of their village.

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Translated from French by Dorsaf N. James

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Rose Kiabu

Rose Kiabu is the Focal Point for Communication for the “Healthy Villages” scheme in the Hygiene and Public Cleanliness office in Kasaï Oriental. Her aim is to spread good practice for keeping the Healthy Village status.

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