“The world is alarmingly off-track to deliver sanitation for all by 2030,” a 2020 World Health Organization report warned. In addition to 1.7 billion people globally who lack basic sanitation services, “some 673 million people have no toilets at all and practice open defecation,” a situation that presents a host of health morbidities, as well as anxiety and risk of violence or sexual assault.*
In remote areas of Malaysia, many indigenous Orang Asli or “original people,” have little access to necessities such as clean water, washrooms, electricity, and education. Villagers often must walk in the dark or in the rain to find a secluded spot in the forest to answer their bodily needs.
In recent years, Global Peace Foundation Malaysia has been working on many programs to foster resilient Orang Asli communities, provide for basic needs, and improve livelihood opportunities, GPF Malaysia strives to actively involve community members in decision-making to ensure a more sustainable impact.
In the spring of 2022, Global Peace Foundation Malaysia and Nestle Malaysia partnered to provide the resources and expertise to construct 25 washrooms in 9 villages to relieve villagers of the burdensome, dangerous, and unhygienic practice of open defecation.
“We would look for hidden and isolated spots within the forests, said Surayati, a young female villager. “ It can get a little scary to go alone at night. Sometimes we bring someone along with us. We never know what could happen at night. There may be poisonous or dangerous insects. During the monsoon season it gets worse. There are snakes and centipedes.”
“It is dangerous to go to the forest at night,” agreed Pak Bagh. “There might be tigers, bears, or elephants.”
Without tissue paper, villagers find sticks and leaves to clean themselves, a frustrating and unsatisfactory approach to basic hygiene made even more difficult at night or in bad weather.
“Sanitation is a human right. Everyone is entitled to sanitation services that ensure privacy, dignity and safety, and that are accessible and affordable.” –World Health Organization
The new washrooms have understandably been highly valued and appreciated in the Orang Asli villages. “We’re really happy to have a washroom now,” Surayati said. “Even the children are excited because we have clean water.”
“Thank God for the washroom now, it is such a convenience,” said Azhar. “Because the washroom is so close by, we are no longer afraid as we were before.”
“I’m so grateful for the washroom,” added Amoi. “This means no more worries about snakes or getting wet.”
Learn more about GPF Malaysia’s peacebuilding and community-based development projects.
*State of the World’s Sanitation: An urgent call to transform sanitation for better health, environments, economies and societies. Summary Report. New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization, 2020.