There is no sanitation without sustainability
What is the ideal location to build a latrine? How should it be ventilated? How to make it easy for children to use it? And what about the use by women? Which materials should be used? The answers vary depending on the culture, climate and training of users. These are factors that define the sustainability of sanitation where it is most needed: in the fight against open defecation. The Foundation’s expertise will be a guideline in Burkina Faso.
The method (Community-Led Total Sanitation), driven by UNICEF, is a good example of an efficient motivational strategy to deal with open defecation that, whether due to culture or sheer poverty, is present in a community. The strategy of aid projects facilitators is to raise awareness by provoking a feeling of shame and then promote the belief that the community can achieve for itself the knowledge and the means to end a scourge that causes diseases, child mortality and limits its possibilities for economic and social growth.
In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the CLTS method is proving particularly effective in a first phase of aid in which the goal is the empowerment of communities for the construction and maintenance of their own latrines and education in hygiene to eradicate open defecation. These are key premises to guarantee the sustainability of facilities.
The that the Foundation started with UNICEF in Burkina Faso, in one of the poorest areas of the country, is a good example. After the implementation of the CLTS methodology, a new project will now improve the sustainability of latrines. This will involve selecting 100 vulnerable households from 119 communities in the Léo commune, one of the most in need of sanitation, and improving existing latrines that will serve as a model for other families.
A manual for sustainability
In this second phase the We Are Water Foundation’s guidelines on sustainable latrine construction summarized in the will be followed. The Ministry of Water and Sanitation (MEA) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Burkina Faso will support these guidelines, as well as the regional technical services, communities and NGOs that collaborate with them.
The Manual for the construction of latrines and wells is the result of more than 10 years of work of the Foundation, in which it has carried out 54 projects that have benefited some 705,000 people in 24 countries. In 21 of these projects the Foundation has been fully involved in the problems of installing and using latrines in the neediest areas, especially in schools. This work has been carried out in the most depressed areas of sub-Saharan Africa, South America and India, in collaboration with organizations with extensive experience and solvency such as UNICEF, World Vision, Acción Contra el Hambre, Gramya Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Educo, Intermón Oxfam, Mujeres por África and the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.
Culture and gender inequality, key factors
In sanitation, and in particular in latrine use, not everything works the same way in different cultures, economies and climates. Factors such as gender inequality, social prejudices and both material and educational resources need to be jointly considered with climate and the level of poverty when developing a sustainable sanitation aid plan. There are notable climatic differences between a or a in Bolivia; there are also significant cultural differences between schoolchildren in in the Moroccan High Atlas and those of , in Bangladesh or in India. Each one of them needs to be considered when implementing a latrine.
Wherever it cannot be found, a latrine that provides safe sanitation is fundamental to the backbone of any development strategy. It is essential for health and for preventing diseases caused by fecal contamination. It is the key factor to eradicate open defecation and provide dignity and safety to women. Without clean and adapted latrines, adequate levels of schooling cannot be achieved. A latrine that meets the needs of the community, climate and culture is the first step towards growth.
Understanding these benefits allows the achievement of the spirit of partnership and community participation, without which people will never have real and effective ownership of their facilities. Helping to make this possible is the base of sustainability for any sanitation system.