In remote and mountainous villages in the northwest of Vietnam, where many ethnic minority groups live, most people do not know that open defecation near streams is a health risk not only to their own families, and their neighbors, but also to the other families in communities in downstream areas.
Since 2010 CWS has been working with communities to address this issue in Muong Te district and in early 2015 we started expanding the project to new communes in the district’s frontier area, which borders China.
Among the many communities that can benefit from expanded CWS reach are the La Hu – a nomadic people – who speak their own language and are difficult to reach.
CWS is committed to work with Vietnam’s most vulnerable people through our partnership with the Evanglical Lutheran Church in America. The CWS team has persisted in trying to work with some of these remote La Hu villages by identifying people who are willing – because of their own benefits from previous partnership with CWS – to work with us in bringing new information and ideas to more La Hu.
In a series of workshops in newly reached villages, La Hu resource people shared essential health and hygiene information that they had learned from CWS team members and they facilitated detailed discussions in their own language (with CWS staff and district government workers behind-the-scenes). Of course, the resource people’s deep knowledge of their own tribe’s customs and practices – combined with their new knowledge and awareness of disease risks and harms – made them far more effective than CWS or government workers speaking through a translator could ever have been.
While the initial workshops were small, the results are very encouraging. Ten families have stepped forward and committed to being pioneers among their neighbors by building safe, clean latrines and using them.
Huong Nguyen is CWS’s Vietnam Country Representative and Ngo Dung is a Program Manager at CWS.