I recently traveled to Dita in southern Ethiopia where trachoma is a major public health problem. This is largely due to a scarcity of clean water, poor personal hygiene and environmental sanitation. These conditions inevitably give rise to trachoma infections.
ORBIS works alongside the local communities to improve the surrounding environment through improving access to clean water and sanitation.
Dita is located in the highlands, where access and communication is extremely poor. With a population of just under 100,000 people it is difficult to establish and maintain proper sanitation facilities. These poor sanitary conditions mean that bacteria spread quickly and trachoma infections are common. Open field defecation around the periphery of the villages was a common phenomenon in the area until recently.
Health education through trained teachers, health extension workers and integrated eye care workers, combined with the construction of model communal latrines has reduced the open field defecation practice.
These changes in attitude in Dita are resulting in more and more locals realizing the importance of good personal hygiene and sanitation and they are building their own household latrines using local materials.
The active involvement of communities is central for the project to have a lasting impact. The construction of these latrines - both at a community and household level - will demonstrate that the use of such facilities could reduce the disease transmission and maintain clean and healthy environment.
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