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Incinerators bring hygienic disposal of menstrual waste

By Jacky Achan

Added 28th October 2018 05:11 PM

A 2012 study done by the Loughborough University showed that only about 45% schools in Uganda have incinerators, or burning places for girls sanitary pads.

Incinerators bring hygienic disposal of menstrual waste

A 2012 study done by the Loughborough University showed that only about 45% schools in Uganda have incinerators, or burning places for girls sanitary pads.

An incinerator under construction

It is an awful sight to see sanitary pads lying around in garbage bins. They have a foul smell and are definitely a source of infections.

The common practice is for some girls to dispose of their used pads directly into a pit latrine, while others garbage bins.

Dr. Steven Mukasa of St. Vincent Hospital in Lubiri says poorly disposed sanitary pads can be a menace even for the person who has just disposed of it.

A 2012 study done by the Loughborough University showed that only about 45% schools in Uganda have incinerators, or burning places for girls sanitary pads.

Most of the schools expected the girls to use latrines.  However, in all but a few latrine blocks no containers were found to dispose of used sanitary pads and also none were found in bathing shelters.

Consequently, 65% of girls threw used materials into pit latrines at school and this resulted in latrines filling up quickly.

This is because the pit latrines are not constructed with capacity for the disposal of menstrual materials.

Schoolgirls would avoid being seen carrying small bundles, especially by men. Even where there were disposal buckets inside the latrine blocks, no management system existed for transferring used pads for safe disposal outside.

However, the Assistant Commissioner for Private schools in the ministry of education and sports, Ismail Mulindwa says the trend is gradually changing, with new schools being constructed, getting incinerators.

In 2016, the education ministry adopted and contextualized three star approach of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) improvements in schools.

One of the requirements for a school to get a three star rating the minimum in solid waste management and wastewater disposal is an incinerator for collecting and burning of sanitary pads.

 

The Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards as set up by the education ministry; require all schools to have incinerators in place.

How schools are managing

The head teacher Seeta High School Allan Obbo says the school put plastic bins in the toilets where the girls dispose their sanitary pads.

It is later collected and disposed in the incinerator and burnt.

The school has had the incinerator for a long period of time to help dispose the sanitary pads.  "Our girls are not shy to dispose-off their used sanitary pads. We teach them that it is a normal phenomenon and create pride in them. We also encourage the boys to be supportive and let them understand they are a productive of this occurrence," he says.

"So even if a girl gets a problem with her periods in class you will not find noise about it in class instead, everyone both boys and girls are supportive. They have gotten used to it and find it normal, so even during housing keeping they can put on gloves and help dispose the pads and burn them," he adds.

The commissioner for Basic Education, at the education ministry Dr. Daniel Nkaada, says schools that have incinerators, constructed them on their own, with the support from the board and parents.

Nonetheless, he says they are in discussions to establish how to improve the designs of all school latrines so that they can have a provision for an incinerator.

"This option, if adopted, will help us not to strain for funds to construct incinerators, because every latrine we set up will have an incinerator," he says.

Dr. Nkaada says with a provision for an incinerator at the pit latrine, it will ensure convenience and discretion for girls.

The challenge that exists

At King's College Buddo, though the school has an incinerator, the head teacher Bakka Male says it is not being used efficiently. "It seems not to be trendy among the girls," he says.

 "I think the girls fear being seen disposing the pads, now the school has plastic bins in toilets were the girls disposing their pads. We have contracted a company to collect and dispose them off safely. It seems to work perfectly," he discloses.

Rebecca Bisaaso, the head teacher of Namasale Seed Secondary School in Amolator district says at her school they burn the pads in a pit dug at the far end of the school using paraffin on a weekly basis.

But she admits this is not a healthy alternative. "We would prefer using an incinerator to minimize air pollution, and it is easy to manage. We are thinking about setting up one when we get the funds," Bisaaso says.

The head teacher at Delite Basic School in Lira, Betty Apio says in the absence of an incinerator they use latrines. We just pour in a chemical to remove foul smell, clean it and empty it for reuse," Apio says.

But in rural schools like Namasale, some girls luckily use reusable pads which ease the burden on safe disposal of menstrual pads.

Nonetheless, Mulindwa says it is not a luxury but a requirement for the each school, to have an incinerator.

We follow up with head teachers, put timelines and make schools know that they will not open for the new term unless they have built one. Every school deserves to have a proper sanitary pad disposal system and the incinerator is expected of schools," he says.

Dr. Mukasa explains sanitary pads that end up with a pile of solid waste pose a grave threat to human health, since they carry disease-causing microorganisms.

Dr. Tom Okurut, who is the Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority, also explains that sanitary pads that end up in a land fill and get burnt in the open, end up polluting the environment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends incinerating all health-related waste only at temperatures over 800 degrees centigrade.

Okurut, says the wet nature of sanitary pads after use, requires that it gets burnt at a high temperature just like plastics.

He explains that waste such as used disposable pads when burnt at lower temperatures, release irritant gases into the atmosphere.

Okurut, says the incinerators ensures the menstrual pads are disposed of hygienically and in an environmentally friendly way. Now schools are embracing the use of incinerators to safely and hygienically dispose of menstrual waste.

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