Sri Lanka, Pallewela 22 June 2015 – A beehive of delightful little girls and boys dance to traditional drums welcoming the dawn of a fresh new beginning for the small village preschool of Pallewela. Their voices reach a joyful crescendo as they sing their favourite nursery rhymes in unison to the group of parents and […]
WHEN SOMETHING BASIC CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, 24 July 2017 – “A toilet is something very basic, but some people can not afford one on their own, because they don’t have that much money to spare,” says J. Sumanawathi, the Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteer working in the village of Mahakachchakoduya, in the Vavuniya District. SLRC is UNICEF’s local partner for implementing EU-SDDP initiatives.
Mahakachchakodiya village experienced a high level of military occupation in the years of armed conflict. People lost their livelihoods and often had to vacate their homes at night for security reasons. Consequently, there was a rise in the incidence of poverty in the area.
Sriyani Ranbandage, 40, shares a small home with the families of her two siblings – 18 members in total. The family received EU-SDDP assistance – both technical and financial – for the construction of latrines. “This is a village which was affected by terrorist activity,” she reflects. “There were times we couldn’t sleep in our own homes. Part of our land was used to construct army bunkers. We were advised not to sleep in our homes for fear of attacks in the night. We lived very basic lives. We didn’t even have a toilet, we used the jungle close by. And that was particularly difficult when someone fell ill in the night with a stomach problem.“ The neighbours had first let the women into the house use their toilets, but with the family growing, this started to become a problem for them.
The criteria for the selection of beneficiaries for latrines was determined together with the development officers of the District Secretariat. Priority was given to people with disabilities, women-headed families, and very poor households. Next, decisions were made on the process of implementation: beneficiaries had to purchase the material through the finances provided by the project and hire labour, with SLRC field staff guiding and supervising the construction. Representatives from community-based organisation provided the support to people with disabilities and women-headed households to purchase building materials and hire labour.
“Then we discussed the specifications for the toilets to be constructed. This was done in consultation with the technical officer of the District Secretariat,” says Radhika Sivakumaran, UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) officer.. “We got approval for the toilet designs. All this we did in partnership with SLRC, who also monitored the construction activities.”
“We couldn’t build a toilet, because we simply couldn’t afford it. This cost Rs. 60,000, that’s a lot of money for us,” states Sriyani Ranabage. “But perhaps the cost in terms of our health was greater. It’s not something we thought about that way. There were other things that always seemed more important. But what a difference the toilet has made! We thank the EU-SDDP project for the generous financial support that gave us a toilet”
Along with the new toilets, family members participated in discussions about sanitation and hygiene. This was the beginning of widespread positive changes in hygiene practices. EU-SDDP supported over 6,400 households in seven districts with improved sanitation facilities and related knowledge with direct implications for people’s health.
The European Union Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) is a Euro 60 million partnership between the European Union, the Sri Lankan government, UNICEF and other UN agencies to create greater access to social infrastructure and services for vulnerable communities in the districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Mannar, Vavuniya and border villages in the districts of Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Monaragala.