Kathmandu `1 October 2019 – Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has declared Nepal to be an open defecation free (ODF) nation.

The announcement, made in a ceremony in Kathmandu today, follows a decade of concerted efforts among diverse stakeholders that have seen all 77 Nepali districts declare ODF status, one after the other, over the past eight years, a contributing factor in the reduction of childhood mortality rates across the country from 7000 to 1200 deaths per year.

In his statement, the prime minister recalled his 14 years of imprisonment for his political views where he had access to sanitation facilities that were better than those available in most villages at the time. He put the progress announced today in the context of his government’s development agenda reflected by the catch-phrase Prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali. He stresses the point that ODF declaration is mainly attributing promotion towards better health and well being of Nepali people with reduction in medical treatment expenses and so the reduction of communicable diseases as well as to the mortality with increase in life expectancy of Nepali population.

Under Nepal’s National Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan, launched in 2011, the government, non-governmental organizations, international development partners, donors and the people of Nepal have worked together to achieve the national target of universal sanitation coverage.

Emphasizing the importance of achieving total sanitation by 2030, Nepal’s Minister of Water Supply, Ms. Bina Magar, laid out her commitment to lead the development of a masterplan for a major total sanitation campaign linked to SDG6 in which she says all stakeholders need to be engaged. She emphasized that access to water is essential for sanitation and that the Ministry’s priority is to achieve 100% water coverage.

United Nations Resident Coordinator for Nepal, Valerie Julliand, congratulated the Government of Nepal and all stakeholders for the country’s sanitation achievements to date. “As the UN, we have been very proud to be Nepal’s partner in the sanitation movement,” said the RC, citing the many stakeholders working at all levels whose collaboration has made progress in sanitation possible. “This effort has been made by the Government of Nepal, but also within the communities, the urban settlements, the municipalities and the districts that have achieved open defecation free status by meeting the criteria as per Nepal’s own ODF certification protocol,” she said.

“But while we recognize this progress, we also have to recognize that there are still important challenges in sustaining this important progress,” said Ms. Julliand. “People working in the field may have no access to toilets. Flooding and some natural disasters have created some setbacks. The practice of chaupady, the migration of communities, the unavailability of land for building toilets, especially for the very poor people – all these are challenges that need to be tackled if we want to sustain the progress that has been achieved so far.”

“Reducing open defecation, it’s fantastic, but it is not enough. There is also a need to look at overall sanitation services, safe water and sustainable behaviours as well as positive social norms,” she said. 

“As UN, I can assure you that we will continue to work very closely with the Government of Nepal in achieving total sanitation for all, and especially target 6.2 of the SDGs,” concluded Ms. Julliand.

In addition to speeches, the celebration featured performances that included a group of children singing a song that named all 77 of the districts of Nepal in the order in which they achieved ODF over the past eight years, and carried the refrain ‘open defecation, bye bye; total sanitation, hi hi’. A short drama performed by youth group depicted the human tragedy that can result from poor sanitation.

UN-Habitat Urban Basic Services Branch Coordinator Mr. Andre Dzikus remarked to this celebration as one of the great achievements of Nepal in the sector towards SDG 6 and UN-Habitat had been a part of this campaign since 2005 in Nepal working for basic services for human settlement. This is great pleasure of UN-Habitat to be part of this milestone celebrated by the Country.

To date, part of the UN effort has been the contribution by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in partnership with UN-Habitat to the work of almost a quarter of the village development committees across Nepal from 2011 to mid-2019, helping more than 3.5 million people gain access to improved sanitation facilities. 

In 2016 and 2018, WSSCC conducted two successive outcome surveys, which indicate that all members in 90 percent of households in ODF-declared areas continue to use latrines on all occasions.

“We will continue to provide our support to the government counterpart and communities to maintain their ODF states,” says Sue Coates, Executive Director ad interim of the Geneva-based WSSCC. “Working closely with our partners, we will not only be able to sustain the progress made towards ODF, but also move upward on the sanitation ladder and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”