Globally, one in seven people have a disability. Disability and poverty are often linked as people living in poverty have a higher chance of acquiring a disability due to lack of medical care, poor nutrition, violence, unsafe housing, and getting injured at work. Twenty-two per cent of the world’s poorest people have a disability.
In addition, people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty. People with disabilities report multiple barriers to accessing health services. People with disabilities are also less likely to attend school, are more likely to be unemployed and generally earn less when employed. People with disabilities also face barriers in managing necessary parts of life – like being able to access a toilet.
In Vanuatu Live & Learn supports the TopWan Community-based Sanitation Enterprises to construct and supply toilets to people living with disabilities in the peri-urban settlements around Port Vila without sanitation.
Five years ago Anik had to have both her legs amputated following diabetes complications. Her house has an outside pour flush toilet at the end of a dirt path. The toilet is too small for Anik’s wheelchair, and in the rainy season the path is muddy and impassable for the wheelchair.
The family relies on rainwater, and in the dry season they often run out of water. Inside the house Anik has a small room. In the corner is a small bucket with a plate over the top. This has been her toilet for the past 5 years. The small bucket needs to be emptied after every use. This is done by all members of the household. Spills often happen and so the family members must clean these up. It is distressing for Anik and her family to see her in pain and struggling to use the toilet.
Anik is independent during the day. She works from home looking after a young nephew and makes cushions and clothes with a sewing machine. She decided to set the new toilet up in a storage room. This room does not have enough space for the wheelchair, but she is generally not using the wheelchair inside. TopWan installed handrails and steps up to the toilet. This made it much easier for her to get up on to the toilet. Then Anik made two pillows for the steps to lessen the pressure on her legs.
The portable toilet has made it much easier and less stressful to go to the toilet. The pain felt when using the small bucket has been significantly reduced. The pillows soften the pressure and the handrail enables her to move up and down more easily. Anik now has much more privacy.
Women and girls with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination; creating barriers which stop them from achieving their full potential. “Women with disabilities face double, and most times triple discrimination, because they are a woman, and they have a disability, and the abuses they face or the discrimination they face in society,” says the National Coordinator of the Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association
To mark the 2017 International Day of People with Disabilities, we are sharing Anik’s story about improved sanitation, and also a video from Vanuatu that CBM Australia has created to highlight the unique experience and contributions that women and girls with disabilities have to make – and the importance of including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts.
Live & Learn Vanuatu is working with TopWan Sanitation Enterprise through the Western Pacific Sanitation Marketing & Innovation project, which is funded by the Australian government through the Civil Society WASH Fund.