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A Safe Place to Go
Anxiety nagged at Pamalla’s mind. As usual, she had woken up, taken her daughter Aalia to the field to go to the toilet, fixed breakfast for her four children and left for work. But each day, as she laboured in the fields, she couldn’t stop wondering if her 14-year-old daughter would be OK.
While these worries spun through her mother’s mind, Aalia had concerns of her own. What if she had to go to the toilet by herself?
One day Aalia couldn’t hold it in all day, and their fears were realised.
Found Lying on the Ground
GFA pastor Raanan looked down from the rooftop terrace of his house and beheld a startling sight: A prone figure lay beside the path. Alarmed, he called out to his wife, Abony.
Abony rushed to help the unconscious person and discovered a familiar face; young Aalia attended their church. Abony cared for the girl as she woke up and then asked her what had happened.
“I came [to go to the toilet] and got [a seizure] and fell down in this position,” the girl explained.
Every day, Aalia had to walk some distance to relieve herself in a field because her family were some of 2 billion people without access to a toilet, latrine or other basic sanitation facility in their home.
Every day, she risked having seizures along the road. This day, risk had become reality.
Abony explained the situation to her husband, and he visited Aalia’s home to find out more about the family’s circumstances.
A Common Danger: Poor Sanitation
Aalia’s father had passed away 10 years earlier, and Pamalla struggled to provide for her four children, earning less than £2 a day as a farm labourer. Being able to construct their own toilet was an impossible dream, so the family had to relieve themselves out in the open.
In areas lacking toilets, people often go out to the fields or forests to relieve themselves. This practice, known as open defecation, is part of everyday life for millions, and it poses a huge health risk for people like Pamalla and her children. Poor sanitation, especially open defecation, increases people’s risk for diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis A, polio and diarrhoea.
Open defecation threatens not only people’s health but also their safety. Many, especially women and girls, value their privacy and try to reserve their bathroom trips for the early morning or the night. However, this puts them at risk for harassment and assault. Studies from multiple countries have shown a significant increase in the risk of sexual assault among those who practice open defecation, and women and girls commonly fear sexual harassment when they go to relieve themselves.
Pamalla and her daughters faced this risk every day, and Aalia’s recurring seizures caused an additional threat to her safety. Pamalla accompanied Aalia to the bathroom every morning, but then Pamalla had to go to work, and Aalia couldn’t always wait the whole day to go to the toilet. Sometimes she had to go alone, as she did the day Abony found her.
A Gift for the Whole Family
The same day that disaster struck, though, was also the day hope peeked through the curtains of the family’s lives. That was the day Pastor Raanan visited Aalia’s home and learned about their desperate need for sanitation, and he had an idea. He asked one of his regional leaders for help. Then Pastor Raanan brought exciting news to Pamalla and her family: The church would construct a toilet for them on their land.
Pamalla, Abony and their entire family were overjoyed as they watched the outhouse rise from the ground. This meant the family could go to the bathroom in safety, and they could go whenever they needed to. Pamalla no longer had to worry about Aalia while she was working in the fields. Aalia no longer had to worry about collapsing far from home while going to the toilet. The rest of the family no longer had to hold it in until they could go in private.
This gift helped Aalia’s family see how much God cared about them.
“I am thankful to the Lord for having concern for our family,” Aalia said. “Because of the Church’s help, we got a sanitation [facility]. It is a great help. I thank God and the church.”