The Health Education and Promotion unit under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources on Saturday May 13th certified the community of Janjangbureh as open defecation free-status (ODS).
The open defecation-free status through the community-led total sanitation concept, was supported by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund.
Sanitation and hygiene, according to officials, are engines that drive health, social and economic development, and contribute to a cleaner environment.
Speaking on behalf of the Governor of the region, the deputy governor, Alh Malang Saibo Camara stated, "As we celebrate this important day, let us reflect on the importance of sanitation to human health and wellbeing".
According to him, feces borne diseases transmitted through food or water can be prevented only, "if we are committed" to providing latrines and using them as expected, further reiterating that The Government of The Gambia has recognized the significant role of key players such as communities in ensuring open defecation free Gambia.
To this end, Deputy Governor Camara therefore emphasised that strengthening the capacities of local communities to take the lead role on their own through effective personal hygiene and environmental sanitation is high on their development agenda.
He commended development partners, while also saluting government's efforts through the provision of ODF facilitation resources nationally.
On his part, the regional health director Babagalleh Jallow said for too long the subjects of sanitation, hygiene and toilet have been surrounded by silence. "Yet today, more than 2.5 billion people around the world have no access to improved sanitation. We need to change that reality and break the vicious cycle of disease and poverty", he noted.
Jallow maintained that the aims of this event, was to mobilize development partners, private sector, media, communities and political leaders to join forces in an effort to improve hygiene, change social norms and eliminate open defecation in The Gambia.
Ending open defecation in the world, he went on, would lead to a 36% reduction in deaths due to diarrheal for children under five. "If we could end open defecation in the region, the numbers of people affected by sanitation related disease will significantly reduced", he said.
Director Jallow posited that good sanitation and hygiene practices are vital for human health, and that adopting it reduces morbidity and mortality rates, and mitigates the spread of disease.
He indicated that the country has registered significant results in reducing the rates of open defecation rates nationally which is at 1%, adding that for the past years, the region has being conducting assessment and certifying of communities that are open defecation free, but yet still, the region form a large proportion of the communities that are still without latrine, especially in Kuntaur Local Government Area.
Chabba Saidyleigh, Water Resource and UNICEF focal person, recalled that the ODF initiative started in 2009 and CRR is one region that accounts for a major challenge with regards to open defecation.
According to him, experience has shown that sanitation and sound hygiene are critical drivers of development, as it helps to secure good health, save lives and liberate people to pursue their potential. He thus called on development partners to join hands in a bid to end open defecation in the country.