Sports, Health & Lifestyle
Written By: Observer Staff
Article Date: Nov 25, 2008 - 1:30:27 AM
World Toilet Day on November 19th marks the foundation of the World Toilet Organization, a partner in the UN International Year of Sanitation 2008 - initiatives to improve toilets and sanitation globally. About a third of the world’s population has no access to sanitation facilities and are forced to defecate in plastic bags (flying toilets), buckets or outside the house in the open.
In Yemen the faeces collected inside the house are disposed of in the open as well occasionally next-door to houses. Furthermore, women suffer in particular from this situation as they are forced to wait until dusk to defecate unseen outside the house; apart from the discomfort this causes they also have the job of disposing the fecal matter and urine of other household members.
Open defecation alongside any other improper disposal and treatment of faeces causes severe health and sanitation problems. Contact with it can transmit pathogens, bacteria and viruses among humans which contribute considerably to diseases and their transmission in developing countries. Other ways of transmission occur in its distribution by animals, birds and insects. Furthermore, openly discarded excreta can enter and contaminate ground or surface water which makes it dangerous to drink and further transmits water borne illnesses.
In mountainous Yemen, where people rely on collected rainwater, open defecation is especially troublesome. Cisterns are replenished by rainfall which may wash human and animal excreta from the catchment area into the cisterns. Water related and water borne diseases can be traced back to the use of contaminated water in the cisterns. Treatment of this water, by filtration for example, may reduce the infection rate significantly.
Improving this situation demands appropriate sanitation systems. Water based sanitation is not an option due to the lack of water and most of the common water based sanitation concepts are the source of problems faced by societies today: water pollution, scarcity of freshwater, loss of soil fertility, and food insecurity. In Yemen, where water for drinking purposes is so scarce, clean water should not be ‘spoilt’ on toilets or be the cause for further health risks through improper treatment or sewage systems. Locally adapted ways and sustainable approaches must be found.
Although the GTZ project ‘Community-based Water Use in Water Scarce Areas’ in Amran focuses on improving the water resources management at the local level, it can also implement sanitation improvements. The resulting constructions follow the principle of a dry sanitation approach which considers human excreta and water from household not as waste but as a resource that can be recovered, treated and safely reused. This prevents the transmission of diseases, protects the environment, conserves resources by not using fresh water to transport excreta, and returns nutrients back into the ecosystem. In addition, such measures can be culturally adapted, are reliable, easy to construct and maintained.
Some dry toilet designs separate the urine and faeces via two separate channels into respective disposal compartments. The faeces can be covered with ashes or sand to enhance the drying process. As no water is used for flushing, personal cleansing has to take place at a short distance to keep the system absolutely dry. After several months those storage compartments can be emptied and the faeces distributed on fields as compost, a normal practice. The urine can be used in a small garden near to the toilet.
The challenge for the GTZ project will be to build awareness and acceptance at the village level for a sustainable approach which will contribute to both improved sanitation and help the water situation.
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