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Flushing toilets for an ODF society by the end of 2022

Health Ministry made the pledge during World Toilet Day in 2020

By Phurpa Wangmo

Coinciding with the observation of World Toilet Day 2021, three more dzongkhags and 26 additional gewogs achieved 100% improved sanitation coverage in 2021 and have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). With 129 gewogs and eight dzongkhags achieving ODF status, Bhutan has reached the 62 percent mark for improved sanitation and ODF status. In addition, 15 gewogs have achieved more than 98%, 16 Gewogs more than 95% and 21 Gewogs more than 90% access to improved sanitation status so far. The Ministry of Health pledged to make achieve ODF status by the end of 2022.

And as Bhutan joined the global community to observe the World Toilet Day this year, three Dzongkhags (Dagana, Lhuentse and Trashiyangtse) and 26 Gewogs (Kana, Dorona, Karmaling, Nichula, Lhamoizingkha, Tashiding, Lajab, Tshendagang, Tseza, Drujeygang, Goshi, Gangzur, Khamdang, Bjacho, Lokchina, Getana, Darla, Chapcha, Serchong, Samtenling, Gelephu, Shenga-Bjimi, Barp, Toepisa, Sakten and Udzorong) are being recognized for the accomplishment.

As part of the monitoring system, the ODF certification is instituted to keep track of sanitation progress and to recognize gewogs and dzongkhags for their achievements annually during World Toilet Day.    

Recognizing the importance of sanitation and hygiene in reducing the overall disease burden, the Ministry of Health initiated the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP) in 2008. RSAHP is a subsidy free and demand driven community-led approach to achieve total sanitation in rural communities. The Programme has now reached all 20 Dzongkhags in an effort to accelerate the progress to achieve 100% access to pour flush toilets and ODF status by the end of 2022.

“We just have a year left to achieve 100 percent access to pour flush toilets. Therefore, I urge all leaders at the Dzongkhag and Gewog levels, CSOs and development partners to put in extra efforts towards  achieving 100 percent accessibility to sustain and safely managed sanitation and hygiene facilities. The Ministry of Health is committed to providing all necessary support to achieve this national goal,” health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said.

According to a press release from the health ministry, when some households in a community do not have safe toilets, everyone’s health is threatened. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, rivers and food crops, spreading deadly diseases among the wider population. For instance, every $1 invested in basic sanitation returns up to $5 in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain. For women and girls, toilets at home, school, institution and at work help them fulfill their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy.

“SNV is committed to continued collaboration with all relevant WASH partners in achieving inclusive national sanitation and hygiene targets,” the Country Representative of SNV, Kencho Wangdi said.

“Valuing toilets means valuing life. Ensuring access to improved toilet and sanitation facilities are catalytic in ensuring the wellbeing and dignity of the people. UNICEF is committed to work with the RGoB and partners in strengthening WASH services to be more resilient to climate change, environmental degradation and emergencies,” UNICEF Country Representative, Dr Will Parks said. 

The theme for this year’s World Toilet Day is “Valuing toilets” which calls for concerted effort from all stakeholders in achieving access to sustainable sanitation by all. It reiterates that life without a toilet is dirty, dangerous and undignified and that public health depends on toilets. Toilets also drive improvements in gender equality, education, economy and the environment.

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