Integrating preventative and responsive sanitation action in Savannakhet

A man and woman stand on either side of the door to an outdoor latrine at their home in a rural village in Champhone District, Lao PDR. They are pointing to the high water line left on the timber door as a result of previous flooding.

Residents of a rural village in Champhone district, Lao PDR, indicate how high the water rose during recent flooding. In the absence of climate-resilient design, latrines like this are rendered dysfunctional and can contaminate waterways and the environment when they become inundated (SNV Lao PDR)


“In the past, my family and I used to only think about how to manage our livestock and crops to prepare for the flooding, I wasn’t aware that we must also think about our toilet and how to store drinking water.”

A resident of Sakheu Neua village in Champhone district, Lao PDR, explained how their experience of the annual SeChamphon River flooding has worsened in recent years during focus group discussions in their community, facilitated by Water for Women partner SNV.

Residents of Sakheu Neua are among the most at risk from the impacts of climate change and its effects on unsafe sanitation. Annual inundation is forecast to increase in frequency and severity, and with this, crop loss and property damage to the 1,800 population that lives along the SeChamphon riverbank are also expected to worsen.

Supported by Australia through Water for Women, SNV brought together local governments of the Atsaphone, Champhone, and Phalanxay districts in Savannakhet province in June to conduct climate vulnerability assessments and focus group discussions across 18 villages, including Sakheu Neua. The assessments underscored that climate change is already impacting the communities' lives – including people’s critical access to safe water and sanitation.

When toilets get blocked, participants shared that they use boats to reach the houses of their relatives to go to the toilet. And despite some having resilient structures, the effects of their neighbours' unsafe sanitation systems have detrimental impacts on everyone. One participant who owns a sturdy toilet that can withstand flooding expressed her frustration and disgust over faeces and solid waste from others floating into her home, raising the issue of the lack of resilient and safe toilets in upstream villages.

Across the three districts, more than 30% of households have experienced a significant climate-related event in the past two years, 90% being flooding, which will worsen with climate change. Latrines are typically located away from homes, which make them difficult to access in flood conditions, especially for people with a disability. And according to SNV, all latrines are designed with leaky pits, open user interfaces, and below predicted flood levels, placing them at high risk of septage pit leakage to the environment. Beyond those with direct discharge or no toilet, a large proportion of households that store septic waste also do not effectively remove it. These unsafe practices impact on water security, the quality of water sources, and increase human-pathogen transmission risks.

While local authorities have social programs in place that provide flood relief and rebuilding support, including loans and assistance to recover crops and income losses, the local government is now able to use the findings of the climate vulnerability assessments to revise current approaches and update plans. With SNV's support, the local government is integrating preventative and responsive actions to help protect people’s access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) during climate-related events, and at all times.

Through their Water for Women project, Towards Climate-Resilient Inclusive WASH Services in Rural Lao PDR, SNV aims to directly benefit 230,035* people living in Atsaphone, Champhone and Phalanxay in Savannakhet Province by integrating climate resilience into WASH systems and services. Verifying the districts as open defecation free and ensuring strategies are in place to sustain this are a critical focus of this project.


In rural Sakeu Neua village in Lao PDR, the length of a concrete fence is shown with a large section missing in the centre. An eroded hillside can be seen through this open section of the wall alongside a river embankment below.

This image illustrates how the impacts of the flooding are felt in all areas of community life along the SeChamphon River. This fence at a temple collapsed as a result of erosion of the riverbank (Phetmany Cheuasongkham) 


November 19th is World Toilet Day and this year's theme, 'Accelerating change' reflects the urgency of sanitation action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 - safe water and sanitation for all - and all other SDGs by 2030.

The global sanitation crisis poses a threat to nature and everyone’s health, but especially women, girls, people with disabilities, people from sexual and gender minority and other marginalised groups, who are disproportionately affected by unsafe sanitation and climate change.

Adaptation and mitigation go hand-in-hand for sanitation. Safe sanitation has the power to significantly reduce methane emissions and protect the health and well-being of people and ecosystems.

The time is now for sanitation action!


*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) project baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate.


Contact Us