If this idea is not tested, how shall we know that it works?
'A tale of naming and shaming households without toilets'
Simon J. Mone
A section of the elite world thinks that shared toilets are an essential stepping-stone towards realising universal access to sanitation.
Academicians, aid and development agencies and governments seem to profess this idea. They say this is a far better suggestion than that of using open spaces for human waste disposal. In so doing, they are effectively implying that some cultures belong to the olden days. And that they should be placed firmly in the past.
You will not contest this idea. Will you?
The shared latrine concept, if properly handled could be one of the final pieces to solve the open human waste disposal puzzle. It could be the ultimate solution for the sanitation for all initiative that we have been looking for, for a while.
If this idea is not tested, how shall we know that it works? How will we get to a level where statistics of people having no latrines is reduced to zero? So, shared latrine idea looks good. Caution!
While implementing shared latrines, bear in mind that some things could go wrong. Like who is going to provide funding for safe, shared toilets? Like who is going to collect user fees to facilitate cleaning, washing and ensuring good sanitation practices in communities?
Through a gap analysis, we can be able to discover and fill gaps in using these communal toilets. And get answers to questions like, how to sustain the use of shared toilets? Like how to better manage shared latrines?
We have seen initiatives like community water supply systems come to their knees because answers to questions are hard to find.
Delivering on this goal would be a major milestone. We crave for universal access to basic sanitation where every household should afford latrine facilities. Ultimately, the aim would be to ensure that every household can get access to a latrine, effectively ensuing that human waste is properly treated, in a manner that eliminates the risk of faecal material endangering human and environmental health.
In doing this, we must drag the element of culture into the agenda. Cultures that encourage open human waste disposal must be discouraged.
We could also come up with name and shame initiatives. It is a deterrent for the people that practice open human waste disposal.
Naming and shaming allows leaders from Buliisa, Namayingo, Mayuge, Sironko, Nakasongola, Nakapiripit and Napak to swing to action. Ensure that their people stop open defecation practices.
It will ensure there are healthy sanitation practices among communities. As revealing homesteads that lack latrines make them wake up to new ideas because it is not pleasant. So one thing the shared latrine approach would do is; help sanitation of densely populated areas.
Like in slums, IDPs and refugee settlements. Since slums don't have enough space for each home to own latrines. Everybody needs a safe toilet. But we know that this cannot be possible for overly populated groups.
If properly designed and managed, shared latrine is a big leap towards dignity and enhanced health for rural communities. Many years ago, communities found it easy to have toilets.
Today, it is not a common thing to ensure that families dig up pit latrines. The youths have become less ardent about encouragements to dig up pit latrines. Something sad must have happened to these days' youth.
People don't speak highly of shared toilets.
That it could cause public health emergencies especially in congested settlements. The idea of shared toilets is a good step towards ensuring wide access to toilet facilities by communities.
The writer is a civil engineer