GOVERNMENT through the Ministry of Health is embarking on plans to improve rural water supply, hygiene and sanitation in the country.
The Ministry’s acting Permanent Secretary Dr Chris Becha highlighted this on Monday at the opening of a two weeks Community Wash Facilitators.
Dr Becha said, the program is being spelt out in the government’s new approach called ‘Community Engagement’ (CE).
He explained the ‘Community Engagement’ strategy is about how field workers work with communities to build their understanding and help them plan, construct, and maintain their own water systems, and make improvements to sanitation and hygiene.
Mr Becha stated this new approach to water, sanitation and hygiene are the pillars that SIG through the responsible Ministry is focusing on to improve the living standard of rural people.
“This new approach is focused more on water supply than sanitation and hygiene. It will also give priority to hygiene and sanitation.”
He added that water system on its own will not improve health of people. But with the other two, people will have healthy livings.
“They need to keep the water safe for drinking and wash their hands with soap, and stop defecating the bush and build toilets.
“This CE is a form of empowerment, building up the understanding, commitment, and sense of responsibility of the community so they want to keep their water systems running rather than sitting back and waiting for government.”
Dr Becha said, that it is to get the community doing things themselves to keep their water systems running for instance taking care about the way they use taps, supporting caretakers to do regular maintenance, and raising funds to repair taps and pipes. This will ensure that investment in new water systems by government and donors is not wasted.
He revealed SIG is planning that by the year 2025 all Solomon Islanders will have easy access to sufficient quantity and quality of water and appropriate sanitation, and will live in a safe and hygienic environment.
“Solomon Islands lag behind other South Pacific countries in terms of rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene (RWASH). Only 35-40% of rural communities have access to potable drinking water and fewer than 20% of people have access to sanitation. Most people in rural areas practice open defecation and hygiene awareness is low.
He added that, RWASH is a priority sector for the Solomon Islands Government and a key focus in the National Health Strategic Plan (2011-15). Currently only 35-40% of rural communities have access to potable drinking water and under 20% to sanitation.
“With the population increasing at 2.9% annually, there is an urgent need to scale up coverage in Solomon Islands.
“The Solomon Islands Government recognises that access to water and sanitation is a universal human right and that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.”
By LESLEY SANGA