In an official program, Nepal will declare itself an Open Defecation Free (ODF) free nation today – while a few shortcomings remain, tremendous efforts by multiple stakeholders have been placed to materialise the day. As of today, Nepal will be an ODF free nation, which essentially means, ‘each citizen of Nepal has access to a toilet’, therefore no Nepali will defecate in the open.
Following execution of National Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan-2001, Nepal witnessed social momentum and improvement in sanitation for a few years with several rural municipalities, municipalities and districts being declared ODF. As per the status, basic sanitation facilities and toilets have now increased to 100 per cent of the country’s households from 43 per cent in 2011.
While global efforts to tackle sanitation efforts continued, in 2011 Nepal too decided to make itself an ODF nation by 2017 – several partners joined hands, especially after 2015 when UN made access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation by 2030 a part of its Sustainable Development Goal. However,we missed the 2017 deadline owing to several factors such as the 2015 earthquake and other socio-political and geographical challenges.
While we must recognise the efforts put towards making Nepal an ODF nation, we must highlight a few discrepencies too:
- For example, 100% of Nepali households still do not have access to toilets – the number is minimal though.
- Many of those who do own toilets, do not use the toilets owing to several factors – for example, in certain Terai father-in-laws and daughter-in-laws do not share the same toilet, some men believe that sharing toilet with a menstruating woman will bring misfortune, so much so, Kathmandu itself is not totally ODF due to lack of public facilities.
- Lack of follow-up after declaring ODF status – the practice of open defecation in previously ODF declared ares are said to be in practice too – yet again highlighting the lack of sanitation education within communities/families.
Nevertheless, the efforts of all to arrive on this day has been tremendous which needs to be acknowledged, however simply declaring our nation an ODF nation is not going to suffice – the efforts must not stop and awareness programs of healthy sanitation habits must continue nationwide. Only then we would have achieved a true status of an Open Defecation Free nation.