Liquiçá announces Open Defecation Free status

3 min read
Open Defecation Free celebration

Liquiçá has become the 4th municipality in Timor-Leste to be officially declared ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF) in Timor-Leste following celebratory events in the administrative posts of Maubara and Bazartete on 22 April and 30 April.

The announcement means that people living in all 15,820 households in Liquiçá exclusively use toilets rather than defecating in public areas, an achievement WaterAid Timor-Leste has been working towards since 2017. Liquiçá joins Bobonaro, Ermera and Aileu as other municipalities in Timor-Leste that now have ODF status.

The ODF milestone, which is used as a progress measure for the achievement of goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals, is critical for the health of individuals and communities. In communities where people no longer open defecate, the likelihood of children and families contracting fatal diseases and infections such as diarrhoea is greatly reduced while the environment is also much cleaner.

According to the World Health Organisation, reducing open defecation has a range of other benefits including:

  • reducing the spread of intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, neglected tropical diseases that cause suffering for millions;
  • reducing the severity and impact of malnutrition
  • promoting dignity and boosting safety, particularly among women and girls
  • promoting school attendance, particularly girls’ school attendance
  • improving access to sanitary facilities

Over 300 people attended the event on 30 April to witness the signing of a plaque and the presentation of certificates. Domingos da Conceicao, the President of the the ODF Secretariat and the Administrator of Liquiçá munipality, was proud to celebrate the achievement. “Today we’ve made it happen… we kept our commitment, which we have set towards ODF declaration over the past two years,” he said.

WaterAid Timor-Leste Country Director Justino da Silva said that community members made significant contributions to the ODF progress and that WaterAid had helped support what the communities have done. “I’d like to take this opportunity to express a massive congratulations to the whole communities in Liquiçá, along with its municipal government leaders, who have guided them in accelerating this process,” da Silva said.

In evaluating this achievement, 12,653 out of 15,820 households in Liquiçá, were surveyed. Of those, approximately 12,363 households had their own toilets, 253 households still used shared toilets, and 37 households share toilets with their neighbours. According to the sanitation coverage policies, if more than 2 households share one toilet, then the verification team considers that this household does not have a toilet.

This resulted in a 98% result for Liquiçá, which passed the standard of the probability of 95% and a 5% margin for error. There is still room for improvement, though, as only 57% of people have access to an improved toilet facility, one where human waste is hygienically separated from human contact. The ODF team, together with municipality ODF secretariat team, will continue monitoring to encourage people to build toilets for themselves.

The ODF program was launched in 2017, led by the Partnership for Human Development and WaterAid, and supported by the Australian government. As part of the program, local leaders within communities, such as chiefs of the village and sub-villages make strong commitments to take the lead in making their village Open Defecation Free. They are supported in this process from the ODF team, implementing partners in their municipality, municipal government, WaterAid, and Minister of Health.

Bermana also celebrates ODF status

Elsewhere in Timor-Leste, the community of Bermana in Manufahi also achieved ODF status in late April, following similar declarations in the Fatuberlio and Alas administrative posts. About 3,561 households with a total population of around 16,408 people have their own toilets now, while communities in Alas and Same post administratives are planning to achieve their ODF status during May.

Administrator of Manufahi municipality Arantes Isaac Sarmento explained that having access to adequate sanitation was key to helping the community save money. “We no longer need to spend money on contagious diseases treatment due to unsanitary practices,” Sarmento said. 

This project is supported by the Australian Government.