Three more dzongkhags and 26 additional gewogs receive ODF certification

Meanwhile, the theme for this year’s WTD is “Valuing Toilets”

With eight dzongkhags and 129 gewogs in the country achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status, Bhutan has achieved 62% in terms of improved sanitation and ODF status.

Coinciding with the observation of the World Toilet Day (WTD) 2021, three more dzongkhags and 26 additional gewogs achieved 100% improved sanitation coverage in 2021 and have been declared ODF.

In addition, 15 gewogs have achieved more than 98%, 16 gewogs more than 95% and 21 gewogs more than 90% in terms of access to improved sanitation status so far.

Dagana, Lhuentse and Trashiyangtse, and 26 other gewogs were recognized for their accomplishment yesterday as Bhutan joined the global community in observing the WTD on November 19.

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 the WTD.

Meanwhile, the theme for this year’s WTD is “Valuing Toilets”, which calls for concerted efforts 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.

During the WTD 2020, the Ministry of Health (MoH) pledged to make Bhutan ODF by the end of 2022.

Recognizing the importance of sanitation and hygiene in reducing the overall disease burden, the MoH initiated the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Program (RSAHP) in 2008. RSAHP is a subsidy free and demand driven community-led approach to achieve total sanitation in rural communities. The program 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.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that we just have a year left to achieve 100% access to pour flush toilets.

Therefore, she urged all leaders at the dzongkhag and gewog levels, CSOs and development partners to put in extra efforts towards achieving 100% accessibility to safely managed sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The minister said that the ministry is committed to providing all necessary support to achieve this national goal.

“Furthermore, on this year’s World Toilet Day, I urge everyone to take inspiration from His Majesty The King’s selfless leadership and his tireless work in enhancing access to drinking water in the affected communities across the country,” Lyonpo said.

Meanwhile, 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 $1 invested in basic sanitation returns up to US$ 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,” said Kencho Wangdi, Country Representative, SNV.

Dr Will Parks, Country Representative, UNICEF, 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 government and partners in strengthening WASH services to be more resilient to climate change, environmental degradation and emergencies.”

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu