Thursday, July 27, 2017
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According to data from the 2015 household census, 40,000 people in Timor-Leste (32%) still defecate in public as they don’t have access to a toilet.

According to data from the 2015 household census, 40,000 people in Timor-Leste (32%) still defecate in public as they don’t have access to a toilet.

While the numbers have declined since the 2010 census, which showed that 39% of the population was publicly defecating, more work still needs to be done to ensure every community has access to toilets.

However, head of Sanitation and Environmental Health Tomasia de Sousa acknowledged that many communities were powerless because they lacked access to clean water and were unable to build adequate toilets.

“We need to strengthen their (communities) conscience, particularly in accessing water because adequate sanitation requires clean water,” she said after participating at an event to mark World Toilet Day at the Comoro National Health Institute in Dili.

She said the government faced significant challenges in meeting the targets set out in the 2030 national strategic plan and the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), which both state that all Timorese people should have access to toilets and clean water.

The Ministry of Health has integrated sanitation, hygiene, and environment issues within its family health program. This means responsibility for raising awareness among communities about the health implications of public defecation now rests with visiting health personnel.

She said people who lived in a non-hygienic environment were at risk of infectious disease, particularly children, with 58% of disease, including diarrhea, caused by poor sanitation.

Meanwhile, WaterAid officer Gertrudis Noviana Mau said water shortages were a major problem faced by many communities and meant toilets were not always sustainable.

She said WaterAid had established a community plumbing program, but was only working in Liquica and Covalima municipalities due to funding limitations.

“When we talk about sanitation, particularly being able to go to the toilet with dignity, women suffer a lot, so we try to educate them so that they will ask their husband to build a toilet,” she said.

As part of the program, she said WaterAid was helping to facilitate the construction of toilets in communities by providing access to inexpensive and good quality materials.

WaterAid is an international organization that has been running programs in Timor-Leste since 2007 focused on hygiene education, including water and sanitation.

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