Published on
14 November 2023

In Cojimies, a coastal village in the Canton of Pedernales in Ecuador, a major concern has long been the absence of a sewage system and adequate sanitation facilities, including toilets in peoples’ homes. This has led to a severe hygiene crisis, with serious consequences for public health and the quality of life of village’s citizens.

The situation was particularly difficult for families after a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 in 2016 struck the area. The government built small houses equipped with toilets for some residents, however, the families themselves were responsible for building their own septic tanks, which was a financial and technical challenge for impoverished families.

Fortunately, the community and local partners mobilized to improve the village’s situation both before and after the earthquake with support from the Foundation. The driving force behind these initiatives is Sister Diane Fortier, member of the Congregation of the Religious Jesus-Mary and coordinator of the projects, who works tirelessly to improve the living conditions of local residents, with a particular attention to preserving the environment.

Family bathroom initiatives supported by the Foundation

Family bathrooms have brought significant change to Cojimies. Projects to build bathroom have taken place in different neighborhoods of the village over the years:

  • Los Ceibos in 2014: A project was carried out in the Los Ceibos neighborhood to provide residents with access to dignified sanitary facilities.
  • Pueblo Nuevo in 2015: This marked the first project to build family bathrooms. Its success started a movement to bring family bathrooms to other neighbourhoods.
  • Venecia in 2019: The third project was carried out in the Venecia neighborhood, allowing 17 families to have their own bathrooms in their homes. The Foundation also built septic tanks for families who had toilets but did not have the financial means to build this essential infrastructure.
  • Venecia in 2020: This last project, also carried out in the Venecia neighborhood, enabled 18 more families to have their own bathrooms.

These family bathrooms have considerably improved the quality of life of the population. Each bathroom is equipped with septic tanks for waste treatment, contributing to the preservation of the environment. Walls and roofs guarantee the privacy and security of users. Inside, there are toilets, showers, sinks, and ceramics in the showers to prevent mold from forming.

Residents are grateful for the significant improvements to their living conditions, hygiene, health, and dignity.

These projects showcase in an inspiring way the positive impact that community action can have on sustainable development. They also emphasize the importance of solidarity in creating a healthier future for all. The story of Cojimies can serve as inspiration for other communities to take action to improve their hygiene and sanitation. However, for this momentum to continue and spread where it is needed most, it is crucial that more resources are mobilized towards this noble cause.

Meeting the challenge of safe and adequate toilets: a global health issue!

Sister Diane Fortier, a member of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus-Mary, continues to help the people of Ecuador after the April 2016 earthquake, and she expresses her gratitude to the Roncalli International Foundation for its support of initiatives like the construction of family bathrooms in Cojimies.


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