Thursday, August 16, 2012

Latrines!

Diarrhea is no fun. Many things can contribute to high levels of diarrheal diseases, including improper hand-washing (i.e., without soap) and a lack of access to latrines. Along with malaria and respiratory infections, diarrhea is one of the most common reasons that people living my community have to seek treatment at the Health Center; during my baseline survey people frequently talked about how not having a latrine on the compound was a problem for their family. Many people in my village understand the connection between good sanitation and illness prevention, but almost half of the people living around me don't have access to a toilet or a latrine. (This really makes the personal pit-latrine that I have all to myself, right behind my hut, seem positively luxurious.) People usually don't have latrines because of the cost of the cement and rebar needed for the latrine cap, because the only place to buy cement and rebar is nearly 85 kilometers (about 50 miles) away on a fairly terrible dirt road, or because they don't know how to go about installing one. 

Not having enough latrines contributes to open-air defecation, or, less delicately, pooping behind a bush. This means that it's really easy for fecal matter to spread around under the trees where kids play and into the fields where their parents farm, bringing with it any amobeas and dysentery (which will forever remind me of Oregon Trail) and giardia germs that might have been lurking about.

My little host sisters and cousin, playing under a tree. 
In order to address this problem I started planning a latrine project at the end of last year but after my first funding source fell through things were delayed, and by the time I decided to apply for Peace Corps Partnership Project (PCPP)  funds the rainy season was fast approaching. I'm hoping to get the PCPP fully funded by the time the rains stop so that we can start building in November, when the weather is dry and the corn harvest has been brought in.
Image courtesy of
practicalaction.org

This little illustration basically shows what we'll be building if all goes as planned. After I arrange for the purchase and transport of the materials out to our village, each family, with the help of local masons, will reinforce the pit and lay in a cement cap, creating a sturdy, long-lasting latrine for the whole compound to use. 

The village chief, local health workers, and the heads of local women's groups will hold community meetings before and during the implementation phase to explain the cash and in-kind contributions that will be required for participation the project. We'll also have educational sessions about proper latrine usage, latrine maintenance, using oral rehydration solution to treat diarrhea, and the importance of hand-washing with soap.

This PCPP is intended to facilitate the construction of 30 latrines, and if they're all installed successfully then pretty much every compound in my area will have a proper, functional latrine and know how and why to use it,  which will be absolutely fantastic.  If it goes well this project will serve as a model for future latrine projects in neighboring communities, which would also be fantastic.    

If you would like to read the project profile (or if you're interested in donating to this project) please take a look at the PCPP profile page.  

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