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Stories: Children, Community, Future

Building toilets to improve health in rural Vietnam

World Toilet Day (19 November) is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. In Vietnam, ChildFund is supporting women like Ti with brand-new toilets to keep families healthy and safe

 

In a country like Australia, it’s difficult to imagine what life would be like without a toilet in our home. But for 2.4 billion people around the world, this is their reality – making it a daily challenge to stay well and keep their children healthy. In the rural north of Vietnam, ChildFund is helping to tackle this issue by raising awareness of good hygiene practices and supporting families to build their own toilets. This is Ti’s story.

Ti is a grandmother who lives in Kim Boi, a rural district in northern Vietnam. Like the majority of households in her commune, Ti’s home was not equipped with a hygienic space for people to bathe and go to the toilet.

For years, Ti’s family used a make-shift bamboo shack, which was located in an isolated, dark corner of their compound. With the only alternative being to relieve themselves out in the open, Ti and her family had to live with an uncomfortable and unhygienic arrangement.

Prior to their toilet being built, Ti’s family used a make-shift bamboo shack, located some distance from their home

“The temporary bamboo toilet we had at home was very weak. Sometimes it would collapse due to strong winds or heavy rains. It caused us a lot of inconvenience,” she says. Ti and her family members would also have persistent illnesses due to the unsanitary environment: “The infections would last over a week without any change, even though we took medicines.”

In 2014, ChildFund Vietnam began community outreach sessions in Ti’s district to improve people’s awareness of good hygiene practices and proper sanitation. Ti regularly participated in these sessions, where she also learned that ChildFund could support families to build proper toilets for their home.

“Thanks to ChildFund, I realised the importance of having a good and hygienic toilet,” Ti says.

After these sessions, Ti would talk to her son about her dream of building a concrete toilet for their family. With ChildFund providing 30 per cent of the materials, as well as building supervision throughout the construction process, Ti’s family realised they would be in a position to start building their own private toilet, with proper waste disposal facilities, after three months of saving.

After saving enough money to pay for labour and the additional materials, it took one month to complete the construction of the toilet – which was built in combination with a full washroom, and is now located close to Ti’s house and water tank.

“It was much easier to build a good toilet than I initially thought,” says Ti.

In total, ChildFund’s support has enabled 46 households in Ti’s commune to build new toilets, increasing the number of households with hygienic toilets from 5% to 48%. Ti says she and her family can now enjoy a safer, happier and healthier home.

“The new toilet helps to make my house and property safer and cleaner for my family. There are no longer any bad smells due to the lack of a proper bathroom,” says Ti.

“We feel healthier, and can now go to the toilet more safely. I truly believe that the outreach sessions and new toilets have helped improve the quality of life of my family and community.”

 

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