By Ndalimpinga Iita
WINDHOEK, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- For years, like most informal settlement dwellers, Alfeus Aipinge, a resident of Havana informal settlement in the Moses Garoeb Constituency in Namibia's capital Windhoek practiced open defecation.
"We would wait for the sun," said Aipinge.
As such, their community had been plagued by the spread of Hepatitis E.
Luckily for him, Aipinge's social environment now features clean and user-friendly ablution facilities. This came after, early this year, the Windhoek Municipality handed over 16 ablution facilities to residents of Moses Garoeb Constituency as an immediate response to the Hepatitis E outbreak in the area.
Now, the municipal ablution facilities have become more than a preventative measure- promoting sanitation, hygiene, and human dignity to residents.
"Before that, it was difficult for us. I feel my dignity is restored," Aipinge said.
The ablution facilities also provide a clean and private space for residents, which is safely managed.
According to Aipinge, a key is distributed among neighbors, to maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. This is because one ablution facility is shared among various households, he said.
"If we do not manage the use, we may go back to being 'toilet-less'. Some people are reckless, and the next thing you see is the ablution facility being damaged or in an unhygienic condition, which may exacerbate the spread of diseases like Hepatitis E," Aipinge added.
Moreover, a container filled with water and soap is kept in the toilet and re-filled to ensure handwashing.
"That way, we have a holistic approach towards hygiene in our community, which has been fruitful in the fight against the spread of Hepatitis E to a small extent," he added.
Complimentary services, such as the distribution of soap and water containers for hand washing, as well as the delivery of Hepatitis E hygiene kits, are also provided.
Martin David, councillor for the Moses Garoeb Constituency, said that the toilets have been instrumental in promoting the dignity of residents and good hygiene practices.
"The ablution facilities enabled a decent livelihood for residents, who would otherwise have to resort to open defecation, to prevent the spread of diseases," David said.
However, despite progress made, David said that the constituency office is concerned with the continuous vandalism of the hygienic facilities provided to residents, particularly in our informal settlements
"This defeats the fight against the spread of the disease and robs many other dwellers' human rights to dignified facilities," David added.
In Namibia, about 46 percent of the population practice open defecation.
Meanwhile, according to David, funds have been earmarked for the development of water points, toilets, and containers in the Moses Garoeb Constituency by the Namibian government.
In addition to government support, efforts to promote sanitation are also aided by key development partners countrywide, to address the country's sanitation challenges.
The Chinese business community has been proactive in the drive to address gaps in the provision of sanitation.
To help combat the Hepatitis E outbreak, the Chinese owned company Namax pharmaceuticals donated Hepatitis E rapid diagnostic kits with the value of 200,000 Namibian dollars (about 13,600 U.S. dollars) to the Ministry of Health and Social Services earlier this year.
Moreover, in northern Namibia, Chinese businesses upgraded the ablution facilities at rural John Alphons Pandeni Combined School in the rural Omusati region.
"The aim is to ensure a safe and clean environment of learning for learners," said Cao Shuhua, a representative of the local Chinese business community.
At the time, Erginus Endjala, governor of Omusati region, said that the Chinese aid of 150,000 Namibian dollars towards the rural school boosted government's efforts in fulfilling targets under the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
Developmental efforts also contribute to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals of eliminating open defecation, inequality, and universal access to improved sanitation and hygiene by 2020.
The World Toilet Day, held under the theme "Leaving no one behind," is observed annually on November 19.