Scaling-up sanitation coverage among ethnic groups

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DHAKA, June 2, 2019 (BSS) – Though Bangladesh has achieved significant success in increasing sanitation coverage, it is still low among different ethnic minority groups contrast to national level.

Compare to other ethnic minority groups especially those live in the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT), the Koch Hajang Barman ethnic group of Sherpur district made impressive success in sanitation coverage within their community.

“In recent years, the awareness level about sanitation among this ethnic group has increased in great extent. Now, you can see many latrines at their villages,” said Sumonta Barman, a development worker of Institute for Environment and Development (IED) who is working for creating awareness among the ethnic people at Nanni area of Nalitabari in Sherpur district.

Earlier, he said members of the ethnic community were illiterate about health care. They didn’t know that they are exposed to many diseases due to lack of sanitation system. “Now they got awareness education about using of sanitation,” Sumonta said.

He thanked different government and NGOs taken awareness programmes related to safe drinking water and sanitation at remote hilly areas of Sherpur district that habitats several numbers of small ethnic communities.

Different NGos including BRAC, Karitas and World Vision are working along with District and upazila councils to create awareness for increasing sanitation coverage in the district.

“Apart from creating awareness, we are also providing different kinds of support to the ethnic communities for building proper latrine at their remote villages,” said Sumonta.

Executive engineer of the public health department in Sherpur M Jamal Hossain said sanitation coverage has been completed in 92 percent area under pourasabhas while it is 87.5 percent at rural level.

The district and upazila councils are providing five rings and one slab for making latrine to each family in rural areas. “We are giving more importance to hilly areas where the ethnic communities reside,” he said.

Headmaster of Balujhuri School at Jhinaigati upazila in the district Zahidul Islam said the overall sanitation situation in the district has been improved a lot in last one decade. “You can see latrines everywhere. People don’t do open defection anymore. I can say plain land areas of the district has already come under 100 percent sanitation coverage,” he said.

Women vice president of Sadar upazila Shamim Ara said the women of ethnic communities in the district are now health conscious and they have knowledge about reproductive health as well.

“They built latrine besides their house by own initiatives with the help of upazila and union councils,” she said.

The joint report of UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO) said Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing open defecation in the timeframe of achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Bangladesh had conducted the first national level baseline survey on sanitation in 2003 and found 33 percent coverage of improved sanitation across the country. Gradually it was raised to 61 percent in 2015.

Apart from improved sanitation, the country’s 10 percent of people use unimproved sanitation while 28 percent shared latrine.

Bangladesh government has set a target to achieve 100 percent improved sanitation coverage and decrease the open defecation rate at zero percent under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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