Holarua village in Timor-Leste declared open defecation free

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On 16 March 2018, the Ministry of Health in Timor-Leste declared Holarua village in the Manufahi municipality of Timor-Leste open defecation free in the presence of the Vice-Minister of Health, WaterAid staff and partners, Manufahi municipality’s authorities, local communities and local NGOs. The main aim of WaterAid’s program in the area was to improve health and wellbeing in the rural communities.

In his speech, Dr Rui Maria de Araujo of the Ministry of State and Ministry of Health congratulated Holarua villagers for their willingness to participate in the country's development process, highlighting that “by getting communities engaged in the planning and project, today we declare open defecation free status in Holarua village.” Yet “the participation of the communities shouldn’t end here, it must be carried on to the next level,” he added.

As part of our work, WaterAid has been working to support the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene projects in over 43 communities in the Manufahi municipality, providing services to 13 sub villages and nearly 7,500 people in the Holarua village. The Country Director of WaterAid Timor-Leste, Justino da Silva, stated “by declaring this village open defecation free, each community member will now be free from open defecation and thus the communities’ health status and the dignity of the people will be improved.”

The communities have gained their long wished for clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene after the implementation of several health and hygiene education and promotion campaigns, by the municipality’s water, sanitation and hygiene team, supported by the government, WaterAid, local NGO Luta ba Futuru and key stakeholders. These campaigns included hygiene triggering exercises, the introduction of community-led total sanitation strategies, boundary-riders, community-based associations, citizens’ engagement such as getting communities involved in water user groups, and gender and inclusion priorities.

The Administrator of the municipality, Carlito Pinheiro, emphasised that “we know how important water is to human life; therefore, the beneficiaries of the water, sanitation and hygiene programs need to take care of the existing water and sanitation supplies.” He explained that it is ultimately the responsibility of local communities to guarantee that services last, as community engagement in water and sanitation service delivery is key for ensuring project sustainability and accountability.