Community Led Total Sanitation in a post War South Sudan

1     The context and issues

South Sudan has just emerged from a long war and gained independence in July 2011.  Over 80% of the rural population have no access to basic toilets.  Sanitation and hygiene-related diseases are rampant and impact more on women, children and the elderly.  Diarrhoea among children under five is at an average of 32%.  Besides, defecation in the open exposes people to ridicule, shame and loss of dignity. In addition to neglect before independence, South Sudan has a unique context that influences sanitation and hygiene practices.  The country has no tradition of people using toilets in rural areas. People in rural areas have lived practising open defecation and have embraced very strong cultural beliefs, traditions and attitudes against defecation and use of toilets.  According to the rural folks, it is unacceptable for one to defecate in a structure similar to a house.  In most tribes children and women are brought up to belief that men don’t defecate.   As an independent country, the South Sudan government has prioritized increasing access and use of toilets in the rural populations so as to reduce the WASH related disease burden and improve people’s dignity.  The government recognizes that sanitation and hygiene knowledge needs to increase and people attitudes and practices towards toilet use need to change positively to achieve safe disposal of human excreta.  Being an emerging country out of severe war and without the required organizational and institutional capacity to deliver basic sanitation services, many development actors have agonized on how best to support and fast track community adoption and use of toilets.  What all actors, including the government have agreed upon is that creating demand for toilet construction and use within the local communities is a top priority.  As a consequence, the government has adopted community led total sanitation (CLTS) as the approach that all actors must use to create the demand for construction and use of toilets in the rural areas of South Sudan.  

2     Clients and partners

There are several key actors investing in sanitation and hygiene in the Republic of South Sudan.  UNICEF, USAID, GIZ, JICA, EKN, DFID and several INGOs are the key actors.  Most of these actors are engaged in the development of institutional toilets and provision of subsidies in urban areas.  Only UNICEF and EKN have a focus on rural areas where 93% of the population lives.   In south Sudan, County (District) governments are the main institutions (service providers) that have the mandate and scope to localize and scale up increased community construction and use of toilets.  SNV seized the opportunity and in partnership with UNICEF, decided to strengthen the organization and technical capacity of the counties to implement CLTS in the rural areas. 

3     Intervention logic and method 

In Nov/Dec. 2010, SNV in collaboration with UNICEF initiated facilitated stakeholders in 5 Counties (districts) in Northern Bahr El Ghazal (NBEG) State of South Sudan to develop a strategy on how to introduce and increase community use of toilets in the rural areas.  In a workshop facilitated by SNV, the stakeholders chose to pilot community led total sanitation (CLTS).  However, there was a concern that the conventional CLTS which is based on creation of fear, disgust and shame amongst the communities would not work in South Sudan.  This was because during the war local people had been subjected to many dehumanising conditions worse than seeing, drinking and eating shit.  The State and county stakeholders decided that CLTS implementation should be embedded within the county government structures and traditional leadership institutions in order to avoid people lookind at CLTS as an approach to further humiliate people, guarantee uptake, sustainability and scaling up.  SNV agreed to support the 5 counties to steer sanitation demand creation activities through CLTS.   To facilitate and enable the counties to adopt and steer CLTS implementation, SNV provided the following services:

  1. Facilitated a State level workshop in Aweil town and introduced CLTS approach to State and County (district) level leaders (local government administrators, local political leaders and traditional leaders) to get their buy in and support. In the workshop, four County commissioners, senior technical ministry staff at the state level and paramount chiefs attended and endorsed the CLTS approach.
  2. Trained 35 County level CLTS trainers (CCTs) who in turn trained115 government CLTS facilitators (GCFs) at Payam (sub-county) levels and 100 of local traditional leaders (traditional chiefs and church leaders) to trigger CLTS in villages. During CCT training of the GCFs and local traditional leaders, SNV and LCBs provided coaching services.
  3. Trained 4 Local Capacity Builders hereinafter referred to as LCBs (one local NGO in each County) to provide technical back up and quality control to the GFCs and local traditional leaders during triggering of CLTS in villages. The LCBs also monitored CLTS progress in triggered villages
  4. Together with CCTs and LCBs, SNV introduced and trained 50 local traditional leaders on how to use a village register to monitor CLTS progress in the villages.
  5. Commissioned a 3 weeks inquiry by Waterloo international consultants (WIC) to establish the factors influencing CLTS progress in the triggered villages in 3 counties, namely; Aweil West, Aweil East and Aweil Centre. The 3 Counties targeted in the inquiry were those where some villages had started to show good progress.  The approach consisted of discussions with key stakeholders and making observations.  The inquiry process adopted was a conversation, composed of facilitating the community to draw their village map indicating progress with construction and use of toilets followed by asking and answering questions to support the community to discover enablers and barriers to producing results, and what they need to do, or learn to get through those barriers. Discussions were held with the following key stakeholders: (1) County CLTS trainers, (2) Village level CLTS committee and (3) the triggered village community.  Visits were made by WIC to the selected villages in the 3 counties for discussions and observations. 

4     Outcomes:

4.1  Counties adoption and steering of CLTS

The key planned outcome of building the capacity of the counties to adopt and steer implementation of CLTS has been achieved,   All the five counties in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State have adopted and are implementing CLTS to create community demand for construction and use of toilets.  The trained LCBs in each country are supporting the counties to implement CLTS by proving technical back up, quality control and monitoring of progress.  To date a total of 130 villages have been triggered with CLTS in the 5 counties.

4.2  Counties mobilization of communities to construct and use toilets

A joint stakeholder’s monitoring field visit undertaken in May 2012 and an independent assessment by Waterloo International consultants undertaken in July 2012 has established that:

  • CLTS progress is better in 3 out of the 5 Counties, namely Aweil West, Aweil North and Aweil Centre in this order of significance.
  • Out of the 130 triggered villages seven villages listed in Table 1 below are showing good CLTS progress with toilet coverage of over 45%. For the remaining villages, 36 (37%) have a toilet coverage of 16-44% and 87 villages (67%) have a coverage of less than 15%. 
  • The assessments have also established that over 2000 toilets have been constructed in the 5 counties of NBEG out of which over 1200 are in use.

Table 1.  Toilets status in progressive villages in NBEG State


Village name

Number of households

Total of households that have constructed toilets

% of households that have constructed toilets

Aweil Centre





Aweil West

Referendum estate 1








Nyamlel thii




Kuel chok




Aweil North









 According to the South Sudan standards the CLTS progress in NBEG is remarkable.  This is so when one considers that there has been no history of toilet use and there are strong negative beliefs and traditions against use of toilets in NBEG. 

4.3  Factors influencing CLTS progress

To help accelerate progress, the Waterloo International consultant assessed 13 factors that were suspected to influence CLTS progress in NBEG.  The factors were:

  1. Land demarcation and allocation to households
  2. Incidences of insecurity and evacuate from the village
  3. Level flooding in the village during the wet season
  4. Participation of post triggering follow up committee
  5. of visits made by County staff and LCBs to the village
  6. Level of participation of local village leaders in the CLTS process
  7. No of sessions CLTS discussions were held in a local church on CLTS
  8. of visits and advocacy by local government administration (area commissioner and chiefs to the villages)
  9. Use of a village register
  10. of slabs received in the village
  11. of digging tools received from any source outside the village
  12. of returnee households in the village.
  13. female headed households in the village

 The results of the assessment are vas outlined below:

 4.3.1         The Influence of flooding, land demarcation and security on toilet coverage

The results in Fig.1 shows that insecurity is not a factor affecting % toilet coverage in NBEG.  On the other hand, villages that experience flooding and those whose land is not demarcated and allocated have lower % toilet coverage.  Security did not have an influence on % coverage because all the villages assessed did not experience any insecurity incidences that resulted in relocation of people.  The negative influence of flooding can be attributed to the fact that the toilets constructed from local materials are prone to being flooded during the rainy seasons and this acts as disincentive to construction of toilets.  Where land is not demarcated and allocated, people are unlikely to be willing to invest in the toilets because they can be moved at short notice.

 4.3.2         The Influence of advocacy related factors and knowledge on use of local materials

The assessment identified five factors (Fig 2) that had the highest positive influence on CLTS progress.  Four of these factors: CLTS discussions in the church, visits and advocacy by local government administration, participation by village leaders and participation by post triggering committee are all advocacy related factors.  Knowledge on use of local materials to construct toilets was the only technical factor with a large positive influence on latrine coverage.  The high positive effect of the 4 advocacy factors clearly illustrates that it is the local leaders in the communities (the government administrators, village leaders and the committees) who have the strongest influence on countering the strong negative cultural traditions against use of toilets.   The positive influence of knowledge on use of local materials to construct toilets was a rather surprising finding because it had always been assumed that local people already have this competency.  In NBEG where toilet construction is new, knowledge on use of local materials to construct toilets ought to be increased especially amongst the youth.

4.3.3         The influence of a village register, participation of local capacity builders (LCBs) and County WASH steering committee

The influence of the village register, participation of local capacity builders and County WASH steering committee (Fig 3) was also positive.  However, their influence was much lower compared to the influence of the five factors outlined above.  The village register was introduced only 4 months ago and this could explain the lower influence.  Its positive effects are expected to increase with time.  The lower positive influence of the LCBs and county staff compared to the community leaders reinforces the principle that CLTS is an endogenous process hence it is the community and its leaders that have the highest influence on the progress.  On the other hand, the positive influence was observed to be much higher where the LCBs and County WASH steering committees worked closely together as was the case in Aweil West and Aweil North.  This observation strengthens the position that in a situation where the government structures are still developing like is the case in South Sudan, support from local CSOs is required to provide technical backstopping and quality control during scaling up of CLTS.

 4.3.4         The influence of returnees, female headed households, provision of slabs and digging tools

CLTS Stakeholders in South Sudan have always hypothesized that provision of slabs and digging tools and a high number of returnees in a village have a positive influence on CLTS progress.  Conversely, it has always been assumed that a high number of female headed households would have a negative influence on % latrine coverage because female headed households may not be able to easily construct local toilets.  The results from the assessment shown in figure 4 indicate that there is not clear relationship between the 4 factors and % toilet coverage in the Counties. However, when the same 4 factors were analysed against the no. of households with toilets (Fig 5), they all indicated a positive influence with the number of returnee households indicating a strong positive influence and the other factors showing a positive influence of a lower magnitude.  These results clearly show that returnees and female headed households are only a portion of the village households.  Returnees and female households can be early adopters hence the positive influence based on the number of toilets.  On the other hand when you consider the whole village population, this relationship cannot hold.  

4.3.5         Other factors identified during the assignment.

During the inquiry sessions with the communities, it was discovered that the youth are a major resource in the communities that have not been sufficiently tapped to accelerate CLTS progress.  In all the community meetings held, the youth appeared very willing to support communities achieve ODF.  They saw themselves providing advocacy and construction services.  This resource needs to be tapped and used to accelerate CLTS progress. 

5     Impact

By building the capacity of 5 counties in NBEG State to adopt and steer CLTS, the 5 counties have mobilized the communities to construct and start using over 1200 toilets.  SNV has therefore contributed to over 6,000 people in 5 counties accessing and using toilets.  In each of the 5 counties, an LCB has been trained and works with the counties to scale up and sustain CLTS. 

6     Lessons learned and sustainability

Embedding and supporting government structures, the Counties, to implement CLTS has worked very well for SNV in the sense that institutions with the mandate and capacity to scale up have been supported to adopt and steer CLTS.  The three levels of government: Counties, State and Country are very positive and enthusiastic about this development.  Connecting each county with an LCB was also very useful in boosting momentum.  In the two counties where the LCB have been weak, the results have been less satisfactory.  The influence of the local leaders and committees on CLTS progress has been proven in the 5 counties.  Truly CLTS is a community process that must be steered by the communities themselves.  Several factors have been identified to have a positive influence on CLTS progress in a post war South Sudan.  These top factors are:

  1. Land demarcation and allocation to households
  2. Level flooding in the village
  3. Participation of post triggering follow up committee
  4. Level of participation of local village leaders in the CLTS process
  5. No of sessions CLTS discussions were held in a local church on CLTS
  6. of visits and advocacy by local government administration.


CLTS practitioners in South Sudan and other post war countries will definitely explore ways in which they can build on these knowledge and accelerate CLTS progress in their situations.  These findings will also influence how SNV and its partners to make follow ups and scales up CLTS in South Sudan.  Opportunities for partnerships and resource mobilization for fostering CLTS in South Sudan in 2013 have been secured with UNICEF. 


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