Without an available toilet, where can people ‘go’? Often people resort to digging pit latrines which contaminate ground water and nearby wells, overflow during rainy seasons and are structurally dangerous to use, especially for children. Even worse, with no other options people will be forced to use ‘flying toilets’ – plastic bags which people use in their homes, then throw out. Where available, people also use the bush for open defecation. Beyond the risks that these practices pose to environmental health, they’re also incredibly debilitating to people’s well-being and dignity.
However, the lack of toilet access can be harmful in less obvious, but equally insidious ways. Faecal-borne illnesses require medical care, which can impact upon a whole family, as well as the inflicted individual. Clinics are not always local, incurring travel expenses on top of the price of medicine.
This issue also disproportionately affects women and girls. If girls are able to access a proper toilet their school attendance rises, and they will feel more comfortable leaving their house during menstruation. There is also a terrifying relationship between open defecation and sexual assault on women and girls, especially after dark.
When adequate toilets are available there is real evidence to suggest that things improve. The World Toilet Organisation estimate that every one dollar spent on sanitation results in a reduction of over four dollars in healthcare costs. School attendance improves and instances of disease are reduced.
The Reall Network is committed to providing sustainable and adequate housing, and the inclusion of toilets is an essential part of this. We don’t just build houses, we believe in housing as a holistic approach that includes building communities that have access to clean water, decent toilets and good infrastructure. Many of our partners have used or developed innovative ways of disposing of human waste and included these in the design of their housing projects.
Case Study: CCI in Tanzania
CCI recently constructed a biofil toilet in Dar es Salaam as a demonstration option. Biofil toilets are waterless and use worms in their systems, which eat the waste. This means that biofil toilets only need emptying once every 4-5 years. As well as being sanitary, these toilets are financially viable to the very poor. The worms are easily and cheaply available, as they are the same ones that are used as bait for fishing. The toilet is funded through CCI’s Jenga Urban Poor Fund, in which customers receive toilets through loans, which are then repaid through low interest rates.
CCI have also been experimenting with construction using recyclable materials, including the construction of an EcoSan toilet using plastic bottles.
Bottles have the bottoms cut off and are strung along wooden poles, which are used to create the toilet walls. This construction has the benefit of using easily sourced, long lasting materials and helps to create publicity and demand for future household toilets within the settlement and beyond.