By Yemi Akinsuyi:
Contrary to the popular health notion that shared toilets could cause and spread some diseases, experts have advocated for sharing toilets amongst people living in the slum as a way to achieving proper sanitation by the populace.
An editorial carried in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development called on governments, policymakers and donors to recognise the role that high-quality shared toilets can play in addressing the urgent needs of those living in dense slums, where a toilet in every household is not often an option, and warn againstdwindling investment, planning and delivery of this essential step toward better health and dignity for the urban poor.
WaterAid senior policy analyst, Andrés Hueso said: “We know that in this globalised world, one slum’s waste problem quickly becomes a much wider issue, as demonstrated during the crises of Ebola and Zika, both of which were exacerbated due to poor sanitation.
“Everyone everywhere deserves a safe, private toilet. But we know that for densely populated slums, where large families may live in single rooms and private toilets are simply not yet an option, well-designed and well-managed shared sanitation provides an essential stepping stone to dignity and better health.
“Decades ago, before household toilets became the norm, tenement outhouses and shared privies in London and New York played an important – if imperfect — role in helping to prevent disease from spreading. The governments, donors and planners in today’s ambitious and fast-growing cities in Africa and South Asia should acknowledge that well-managed shared toilets can be part of a path to further progress.”
Senior World Bank economist, Sophie Trémolet in her submission said economic returns and public health gains from interim solutions for those who are currently without sanitation can be far greater than delivering gold-standard service to a few, most of whom already have another, if less than perfect, option.
Continuing, she said: “Despite the fact that shared toilets are not currently counted as safely managed toilets in the SDG framework, we need to maintain incentives for governments, entrepreneurs and communities to invent, invest in and run appropriate shared toilet solutions as a stepping stone towards other solutions.
“We also need to work on developing practical ways to distinguish well-managed shared toilets from those which simply do not pass the mark. Some isolated initiatives have sprung up, such as EcoTact or Freshlife toilets in Kenya run by aspiring young entrepreneurs. We need those to become mainstream and inspire other actors to turn uninspiring assets into symbols of modernity.”
Lending his voice on the call for share toilet, WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Director, Dr Michael Ojo said:“Nigeria has a huge population and extremely rapid rural–urban migration; however, economic development and urban planning have not kept pace with the sheer volumes of people arriving – and being born – every day in its towns and cities. The high population density of urban areas means that diseases like cholera or Ebola can spread further and faster without sanitation and hygiene practices to block their path and an outbreak found in a slum can quickly become a city-wide, national or international epidemic.
“Everyone, no matter where they live, deserves affordable access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Yet at present rates of progress only one-third of people in Sub-Saharan Africa will have a safe, private toilet by 2030. The message to consider all options of getting sanitation to everyone, including shared latrines, couldn’t be more apt particularly for a country like Nigeria.