BUILDING LATRINES AND SANITATION SERVICES in Jiñocuao
by: Ashley Rerrie, Global Education Coordinator
Each month, we’ll be profiling one of our partner communities as we begin our new projects for 2017. This month, we’d like to introduce you to our partner community, Jiñocuao, a small community near the town of Somotillo, about 10 minutes away from the Nicaraguan – Honduran border. A community of 125 families, Jiñocuao is a highly organized community, driven by their hopes and dreams for the future, fighting for access to adequate sanitation and hygiene services.
Don Julio’s eyes light up when he smiles and speaks proudly of his community. He’s one of the leaders of Jiñocuao, a small community near the town of Somotillo, about 10 minutes away from the Nicaraguan – Honduran border. A community of 125 families, Jiñocuao is a highly organized community, driven by their hopes and dreams for the future.
Jiñocuao is located in Nicaragua’s dry corridor. It has been hit hard by the severe droughts of the past three years. The community is experiencing devastating effects from climate change, losing harvests of beans and corn. Families were left without food and without a main source of income. Migration to the United States and to Costa Rica for work have become common. As a result, Don Julio and other community leaders decided to work towards finding ways for the community to be more food-secure.
As a result, Jiñocuao has a long history of community organizing, particularly around their Christian Base Community with roots in Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology is a vein of Catholicism that was popular in Nicaragua and other parts of Latin America throughout the 1970s, which taught that poverty is an issue of injustice, not a personal burden. Christian Base Communities like Jiñocuao organized around the idea that liberation from social, economic, and political oppression was key to future salvation.
In 2016, Casa - Pueblito supporters sponsored a project in Jiñocuao based on agroecology and implementing biointensive gardening techniques. These techniques have improved the community’s self-sustainability, as well as improving nutrition for children and their families. By digging deeper soil beds to retain moisture, using a new water tank to collect water, and planting different varieties of beans and herbs as natural pest repellents, community members have been able to grow eggplant, watermelon, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Community members are now interested in using these same techniques to plant other foods, such as yucca, and expand the variety of what they’re able to plant in their own community.
This year, we’re working with Jiñocuao to achieve more of the goals the community has defined for themselves. The 2017 project is going to construct 44 latrines for 44 families in Jiñocuao. This project will directly benefit 216 people: 61 children, 31 youth, and 124 adults. The families receiving latrines are the most vulnerable members of Jiñocuao, as determined by a community self-assessment. Additionally, nurses and nursing students from the local community health centre will facilitate workshops on hygienic practices, disease prevention, and community health. This will complement the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health’s educational campaign to reduce the spread of preventable parasitic and mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya.
Why are Latrines Important for Community Development?
One of the major obstacles facing Jiñocuao right now is sanitation. Some families in the community don’t have latrines, while others have latrines that are old, saturated, and unsanitary. Some families lacking a basic sanitation facility have no choice but to use the outdoors or to use a neighbour’s latrine, which puts more stress on latrines that are already full or serve three or more families. Community members have reported being unable to use these older latrines because they were overflowing with waste.
The community considers the lack of basic sanitation a large social and environmental problem that negatively impacts the health of community members. Families have struggled to build proper latrines because of precarious work and unemployment and a lack of economic resources. With rising concerns over mosquito-borne diseases, access to proper latrines is crucial. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, poor sanitation and insufficient hygiene is the leading case for diarrheal illness and death in developing countries; over one million people die annually worldwide from mosquito-borne disease, mostly children. In Jiñocuao, children are suffering from completely preventable diarrheic illnesses from the lack of sanitary conditions in the community.
The community has organized and presented these problems to the municipal government, which has built a few latrines, but not enough to cover the demand of community members. Don Julio and other community members want adequate sanitation and hygiene services so that they and their children can live with dignity and health.