Think About This Next Time You Take a Bathroom Break

Going to the bathroom is a daily necessity. But I doubt you’ve ever thought too much about it. Here in the United States, we have the luxury of the porcelain throne. But this commode isn’t so common in other parts of the world.

Lesipen family stands outside of their latrine, constructed after FH training in 2013.

Lesipen family stands outside of their latrine, constructed after FH training in 2013.

Take the Songa community in Kenya for example. Their normal practice was to go to the bathroom in the land around their homes and community. In fact, tribal men in this community were specifically taught not to use a pit latrine according to tribal tradition.

The lack of knowledge about latrine use and sanitation posed a serious health threat to the community. In 2012, there was a community wide cholera-outbreak.   Many families spent large amounts of their income on curing preventable diseases.

One of these families was that of Leresin Lesipen who lives in the community with his wife, Lilian, and their two children, Pasaka and Joseph. Leresin said they often spent money on medication and trips to the medical facilities.

They felt hopeless.

Leresin helps his daughter Pasaka wash her hands using the family's hand-washing station.

Leresin helps his daughter Pasaka wash her hands using the family’s hand-washing station.

In 2013, Food for the Hungry (FH) stepped in. Training provided to the community with information on good health practices, specifically in hygiene and sanitation. FH helped families construct latrines. Families learned about the importance of hand washing and dish washing, and keeping trash away from the rest of the home.

“Our parents were not aware of dangers of open defecation,” Leresin said. “We have grown knowing that latrine use is bad… The majority of the community members here have no formal education. We did not know how poor sanitation and hygiene contribute to diseases.”

Leresin says everything is different now.

“As a family and community at large, we are not willing to practice open defecation,” Leresin said. “We will make latrine use a community responsibility. We were trained that even if we all have latrine and even one household practices open-defecation, the entire village will be sick.”

Lilian washes Pasaka's hands. Leresin said his family's health has improved significantly after learning good hygiene and sanitation techniques.

Lilian washes Pasaka’s hands. Leresin said his family’s health has improved significantly after learning good hygiene and sanitation techniques.

Because of the community’s efforts, along with FH, the family is much healthier. That health means many things for the family. They are able to dedicate more time to income generation, and since they are not spending as much money on medication, Leresin even hopes he can send his kids to school.

“We are very grateful to FH for initiating this program in our village,” Leresin said. “We are happy that most of the households have latrines and those without are either sharing or are in the process of constructing theirs. As a family we have taught our children about the need for proper sanitation and we anticipate the behavior change will remain sustainable through the next generation.”

Leresin sees a bright future for his family and the entire Songa community. To help families like this, click here.


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