Community Wide Latrine Construction

  • Health
  • Water & Sanitation
  • Benin
This project is led by Sara Gilbert, a Volunteer from Maryland

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Villages lack resources, education, and infrastructure. The World Health Organization states that what many call “the greatest nightmare of Africa is the raw and honest truth that poor sanitation and open defecation practices kill more children every year than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.” In Benin, approximately 40% of the general population defecates in public. While being located next to a major river, open defecation is especially dangerous in this community. River water is used to bathe, cook, drink, do laundry and defecate. By building a 3-Cabinet latrine in all 8 village public spaces, the fight to limit open defecation can begin. The health effects associated with open defecation are known but living on less than $2 a day makes this project unaffordable. Upon arrival to my community, I went to each village and introduced myself and my purpose as a Health Volunteer. Something that everyone asked was if I could help get latrines in public spaces. This project will directly address a community need while also building capacity for each person involved. Firstly, health workers and women's groups will teach the community about proper hygiene practices. Secondly, students will build three Tippy-Taps outside of each latrine and present on the importance of proper hand washing. Lastly, the workers will be native to each community ensuring that locals are capable of building sustainable latrines. By donating to this project, you can be apart of direct health improvements, better hygiene practices, and giving a community one of life's most basic needs.

This community is motivated and involved. When I have mentioned a project idea, I immediately received interest and follow up. For example, at vaccination day, I was talking with the women about the importance of good nutrition and a balanced diet and then I asked them what was missing here. They mentioned that there are not many vegetables here in village and they told me which ones they wanted to grow. We are now doing a Women’s Garden at the Health Center that is comprised of all the vegetables that they asked for. When I brought the idea of this project to the chief of the community, he called masons, vendors, and anyone who would need to be involved and got me a budget for one 3-cabinet latrine that same day. We went over the budget and I explained that the community would be responsible for 25%. He said it would be hard but the community would make it happen. They will be in charge of paying the workers who will be installing the latrines. Additionally, they will pay for and install the tippy taps (at least three) outside of each latrine, have maintenance teams visit the latrines bi-weekly, and they will provide the water and soap for the Tippy Taps. The maintenance teams will assure that the latrines are being taken care of and are hygienic. The women's groups that I meet with monthly suggested that they would take care of the latrines before I even mentioned the need for maintenance teams. Additionally, the chiefs of each village have expressed that they have the funds and the following to maintain the latrines, but they don’t have latrines right now because of how expensive it is to build a sufficient latrine. There will be a construction team from each village in the community that will build the latrines of their village that way if the community wants to build more, they know that there are people qualified to build a sustainable and deep latrine in their own community, not in a neighboring village. My community is very committed to making this project sustainable and effective. I am hopeful that once latrines start being used more, the community will start to raise money on their own to build more.

Each village commits to sustainability with their maintenance teams for the latrine, their maintenance teams for the Tippy Taps, the communal effort it takes to educate one another, and the chief of villages commitment to providing soap whenever asked. This was not a project I chose to do. This is a project that my community has asked me to do multiple times since the first moments that I introduced myself. They want to increase their hygiene and they want to reduce their open defecation. They are ashamed of their current realities and they desire public latrines but can’t afford the 1.165.200cfa to build them. The community health workers will further the education on WASH but this time they will have concrete examples of what people can do to better their overall health and hygiene. Instead of telling people to use latrines and wash their hands they can bring them to the latrines, give the information, and demonstrate right then and there. This community is capable of maintaining these latrines and they will be capable of coming together and doing it again. Though 3 public latrines is not nearly sufficient, it is enough to show what a community can do when they work together.

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