Manufahi celebrates as 64,000 people gain access to toilets

3 min read
Manufahi ODF celebration

An incredible milestone was celebrated on 25 October with Manufahi becoming the fifth municipality in Timor-Leste to receive Open Defecation Free (ODF) status, signalling a large step forward in the country’s efforts to eradicate the practice of open defecation and achieve universal access to sanitation.

The declaration means that about 64,000 people across 29 villages and 136 sub-villages in Manufahi now have access to toilets.

Manufahi joins Ermera, Aileu, Bobonaro, and Liquiçá as other municipalities that are official Open Defecation Free, the latter of which celebrated this status at ceremonies in April earlier this year.

The strong sense of government ownership of this achievement of ODF status was underlined by the number of key stakeholders in attendance at the event. The official declaration was made by the Vice Minister of Health, and the celebration was attended by Director General of Water and Sanitation, Chief Cabinet of Ministry of State Administration, National Director and Chief of Department of Ministry of Health, President of Manufahi Municipality, and other dignitaries.

“I thank and congratulate local leaders and communities of Manufahi for their work for following other four municipalities in Timor-Leste…for setting an example to other municipalities in achieving ODF status,” Vice-Ministry of Health Bonifacio Maucoli dos Reis said.

While addressing the crowd at the official declaration of Manufahi’s open defecation-free status, Arantes Isaac Sarmento, the Administrator of Manufahi municipality, said that the ODF program has had a positive impact on community health. He presented some key facts on how diarrhoea and other diseases associated with the ingestion and exposure to human waste particularly affect children under the age of 5 years, as they are very susceptible to diseases.

“This ODF program helps educate us to stay healthier and much more hygienic. Our communities no longer use forests and open spaces to defecate,” the chief of Daisua village Amorin da Costa added.

The ODF program was launched in Manufahi in 2018, led by the municipal government with support from WaterAid, and funded by the Australian government through the Water for Women grant. WaterAid has been supporting the country’s Ministry of Health since 2010 to implement a community-led total sanitation programme, which encourages local ownership and leadership of hygiene initiatives.

While this is a large milestone, it is not the end of the road for WaterAid’s sanitation program. Through the Water for Women project, WaterAid is already getting started on the next step of supporting the local governments in both Manufahi and Liquiçá municipalities to go beyond ‘ODF status’ and work towards ‘Hygienic village status’, whereby all households and institutions will have improved toilets and handwashing facilities.

This Open Defecation Free program was funded by Australian Aid, supported by the Ministry of Health, and implemented by our local partners Luta ba Futuru and its sub-partners, Konsellu Juventude (Youth Council), and municipal government.

This project is supported by the Australian Government.