IMPACT HERO 2023

 

Oyungerel Tsedevdamba

Local Solutions 

Mongolia

Oyungerel (Oyuna) grew up in a small rural town in Mongolia, that was influenced by the communist past of the Soviet Union. After studying planned economics at Moscow University, she would become an activist promoting democracy in Mongolia after the Soviet Union collapsed. She has served as a member of parliament and Minister of Culture and Tourism, where she worked towards the country’s sustainable development.

 

Mongolia faces significant challenges in terms of water and sanitation. More than 60% of toilets in Mongolia are open-pit latrine toilets, which are highly unsanitary, a health hazard, and even life-threatening. To an extent where, the entire country considers the word ‘toilet’ a taboo.

 

In order to address this, Oyuna initiated the campaign “Let’s Change Our Toilets” with the aim of changing people’s attitudes and behaviors towards toilets. The mission focuses on improving overall hygiene, and the environment, through widespread adoption of safe, sanitary, and eco-friendly toilets. She mainly focused on remote areas without access to water, and Ger districts (nomadic settlements) in urban areas. Oyuna’s campaign involves introducing alternative toilet options, conducting training and awareness programs in communities, and promoting collaborations with the business sector

 

*UNICEF

The Story Behind

Breaking the taboo of toilets and improving sanitation and health throughout Mongolia
The Fearful and Hazardous Toilets:

 

Until the age of 12, Oyuna lived in the countryside surrounded by the rich nature of the Mongolian grasslands before moving to the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Looking back on that time, she recalls being most afraid of using the open-pit latrine toilets. She found it scary because it was slippery, unsanitary, and had a strong odor.

 

About one in two Mongolians lacks access to safe and sanitary toilets, and continue to rely on outdoor latrine toilets like the one Oyuna used during her childhood. Even during the harsh winters, with temperatures dropping to minus 20 degrees and in pitch-black nights, people have no choice but to go outside, endure the cold, the smell, and the fear just to use the toilet.

 

Having been concerned about the toilet issue for a long time due to her childhood experiences, Oyuna was deeply moved when she heard a tragic story of a young child losing their life after falling into a toilet. This heartbreaking incident spurred her to take action. She strongly believed that toilet-related fatalities should not be tolerated, and she was determined to prevent such dangerous toilets from persisting for future generations. In 2017, she founded an NGO named “Local Solutions” to tackle the toilet problem and find appropriate solutions.

Why ‘toilet’ is a taboo in Mongolia

 

The word Jorlon in Mongolian, which means “toilet,” strongly carries negative social and cultural connotations. Due to the strong associations with its negative outcomes, it is rarely used in daily conversations, and even in official documents and advertisements.

 

In recent years, those who have access to modern flush toilets take pride in living a civilized life, while those using open-pit latrine toilets feel ashamed and reluctant to discuss their household situations related to toilets. Consequently, perpetuating the avoidance of discussing the topic into a taboo.

 

“Let’s Change Our Toilets” Campaign:

 

In order to address the toilet challenges in Mongolia, the first step was to break the “toilet” taboo.

 

In 2017, Oyuna launched the “Let’s Change Our Toilets” campaign. She published a practical book showcasing toilet technologies suitable for Mongolia, toilet businesses, and examples of civil involvement in sanitation policies at local governance levels. This initiative aimed to emphasize the necessity of embracing discussions and actions concerning toilets to transform people’s awareness and behavior.

 

The following year, Local Solutions’ team embarked on a nationwide tour, visiting all 21 provinces and districts of Ulaanbaatar, conducting a total of 56 workshops and raising awareness on toilets to over 5,000 participants.

 

Over the course of two years, they gradually broke down the taboo surrounding toilets within Mongolia, setting the stage for their mission to take flight.

The Mission

Towards a Mongolia where everyone has access to safe and secure toilets.

Local Solutions’ mission is to ensure fundamental human right of access to safe and sanitary toilets for all.

 

To achieve this mission, Local Solutions focuses on three key activities:

(1) Conducting awareness campaigns and initiatives to break down the cultural taboos surrounding toilets.

(2) Organizing educational workshops that provide information and knowledge about proper toilet usage and hygiene.

(3) Developing and selling affordable, waterless dry toilets that can be used without the need for a water supply.

 

 

Past Achievements:

 

Since its establishment in 2017, Local Solutions has achieved the following:

 

(1) Delivered toilets to 900 households.

(2) Provided toilet-related training to 7,050 individuals.

(3) Reached 4.8 million people (13% of the nation’s population) through 272 videos.

 

However, despite these accomplishments, the challenges remain severe. Approximately 600,000 households in Mongolia still use open-pit latrine toilets. To address this issue and ensure that all Mongolians have access to safe and sanitary toilets, Local Solutions continues its efforts to replace open-pit latrines with waterless dry toilets.

At A Glance

IMPACT HERO 2023 of the Year

Oyungerel Tsedevdamba

 

Areas of Activity

Mongolia

 

Organization
Local Solutions

 

Areas of Activity
Public health, hygiene education

 

Support start date
2023/7/1

 

Support duration
2.5 year

The Mission

Towards a Mongolia where everyone has access to safe and secure toilets.

Local Solutions’ mission is to ensure fundamental human right of access to safe and sanitary toilets for all.

 

To achieve this mission, Local Solutions focuses on three key activities:

(1) Conducting awareness campaigns and initiatives to break down the cultural taboos surrounding toilets.

(2) Organizing educational workshops that provide information and knowledge about proper toilet usage and hygiene.

(3) Developing and selling affordable, waterless dry toilets that can be used without the need for a water supply.

 

 

Past Achievements:

 

Since its establishment in 2017, Local Solutions has achieved the following:

 

(1) Delivered toilets to 900 households.

(2) Provided toilet-related training to 7,050 individuals.

(3) Reached 4.8 million people (13% of the nation’s population) through 272 videos.

 

However, despite these accomplishments, the challenges remain severe. Approximately 600,000 households in Mongolia still use open-pit latrine toilets. To address this issue and ensure that all Mongolians have access to safe and sanitary toilets, Local Solutions continues its efforts to replace open-pit latrines with waterless dry toilets.

At A Glance

IMPACT HERO 2023 of the Year

Oyungerel Tsedevdamba

 

Areas of Activity

Mongolia

 

Organization
Local Solutions

 

Areas of Activity
Public health, hygiene education

 

Support start date
2023/7/1

 

Support duration
2.5 year

The Cause

The Challenging Toilet Situation in Mongolia

In Mongolia, only a mere 58% of toilets meet the standards of “sanitary toilets,” which is significantly lower than the Asian average of 80%, placing Mongolia at the 177th position globally.

 

Approximately 600,000 households in Mongolia still rely on these open-pit latrines, where they dig 4-6 meter deep holes and use makeshift wooden structures to squat over them, because this remains to be the only viable option. This type of toilet poses unhygienic and hazardous conditions, especially during the harsh winter when temperatures drop below -20 degrees Celsius.

 

A 2020 report by UNICEF and WHO highlighted Mongolia as one of the most challenging places to access basic sanitation facilities, mainly due to its harsh winter climate and low population density.

 

Up to 41% of Mongolia’s population does not have access to piped water facilities. This makes it difficult to install toilets that rely on water access which is presumed to qualify as “sanitary toilets”. Water pipelines are extremely costly to install due to the country’s large land area, the geographical dispersion of the population across urban and rural areas, along with the need for extensive environmental adaptations to cope with Mongolia’s harsh and dry climates. Even if water pipelines are installed, additional expenses for heaters to prevent freezing during extreme cold weather become necessary. Consequently, establishing high-quality infrastructure in Mongolia is estimated to be 3 to 10 times more expensive compared to the standards of other countries. As a country that is still in the process of economic development, making such an investment is challenging.

pit toilet 4-min_mono
Risks and Health Hazards of Toilets
Mongolia child 1-min_mono

Disease to Humans and Environment

The pit latrines in Mongolia involve digging a hole in the ground, covering it with soil once it fills with feces, and then digging a new pit for further use. Piles of feces in the pits will freeze during the harsh Mongolia winters, and thaw during summer and overflow, contaminating the soil and water. This leads to soil and water pollution, causing seasonal outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases. The National Center for Communicable Diseases reports that over the past decade, the gastrointestinal infections accounted for more than one-fifth of all infections in the country, resulting in fatalities. Furthermore, unsafe water and unhygienic practices have contributed to the chronic spread of diarrhea and hepatitis, making diarrhea the third leading cause of death among children under five years old.

 

Falling Hazard

Being 4-6 meters deep, open-pit latrine toilets pose a risk of accidental falls, with reported cases of fatalities, especially among children under 9 years old. It is reported that 5-8 children fall into these toilets every year. Constant adult supervision is necessary whenever children use these toilets.

 

Disparity of Economic Benefits

Large volumes of feces deposited underground pollutes the environment and deteriorates the homeowners land quality. As a result, soil degradation causes land devaluation which ultimately denies the owners access to affordable financial services. Lands containing open-pit latrines are generally less acceptable as collateral for loans from banks. Even if they are considered, the valuation is often considerably lower compared to lands without pit toilets.

The Solution

Dry Toilets

 

Why?

(1) Costs about 40% less than conventional toilets, with one unit costing around $260.

(2) Maintenance costs are only 1/10 of pit latrine toilets and 1/30 of conventional toilets.

(3) Water supply is not required, making it a viable option for remote areas without water facilities

(4) It saves 300 liters of water per household, per day.

(5) It is designed to be portable, allowing for indoor installation.

(6) By composting the feces and urine, it prevents soil pollution and can be used and sold as compost.

The Vision

Oyuna envisions a Mongolia where every individual has access to safe, sanitary, and affordable toilets. Currently, she operates two organizations: the NGO Local Solutions, which offers toilet education workshops, and a company Mini Solutions, which develops and sells dry toilets and toilet-related products.

 

Her goal is to transition all 600,000 remaining households using open-pit latrines to dry toilets. By doing so, she aims to create a society where people can actively improve their hygiene and environment through safe and secure toilets, and work towards reducing soil pollution.

Earth Company’s Support

Oyuna Kick-off MTG_mini

Earth Company began its support for Oyuna and the Local Solutions team by holding a meeting to review the organization’s business overview, future plans, and operational challenges. We are currently engaging in detailed discussions to develop a targeted support plan for the next two and a half years.

Earth Company’s Support

Oyuna Kick-off MTG_mini

Earth Company began its support for Oyuna and the Local Solutions team by holding a meeting to review the organization’s business overview, future plans, and operational challenges. We are currently engaging in detailed discussions to develop a targeted support plan for the next two and a half years.