Latrine Infrastructure and Sanitation Education

  • Health
  • Education
  • Community Growth
  • Water & Sanitation
  • Panama
This project is led by Madeline Morelock, a Volunteer from Indiana

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This project will address one of the primary needs of the local community: sanitary waste disposal. Of the 62 households in the community, 47 do not have a latrine. In these households that do not have access to a latrine, open defecation is commonly practiced. This practice can contaminate the water sources that the community depends on for drinking, bathing, washing dishes, and washing clothes. The consumption and use of this contaminated water can cause a variety of infectious diseases. For this reason, the use of proper sanitation practices is a huge priority for the people of the community. This project is two pronged in its approach, with both a structural and educational component. The volunteer, along with the community's Latrine Committee, is organizing and co-facilitating a Sanitation Seminar in order to educate the community on sanitation behaviors, the importance of proper latrine use, and latrine construction, among other topics. The structural component of this project is to build a latrine slab and seat for 30 of the households that do not have a usable latrine. The community will contribute the materials for the roof and the walls of the latrines, all of the sand and gravel necessary for the cement mix, as well as provide all required labor for the project. The potential impact of this project is great – with an increase in sanitation infrastructure and a better understanding of sanitation behaviors, the instances of infectious diseases caused by fecal contamination will decrease.

The community has been growing a small Latrine Fund since the inception of the Committee, which was established prior to the arrival of the volunteer. The volunteer and her counterpart conducted a community census and analysis of the latrine situation of the community. They did this by visiting each of the 62 houses of the community, collecting the information of each person who lived in the home, and, if the house had a latrine, evaluating the safety and viability of that latrine for future use. The volunteer and the Latrine Committee have decided on a work plan for when materials arrive to the community, and are in the process of planning specific work days for each household.

The latrine slabs that will be constructed in this project have been designed in a way that, if properly maintained, they can be used for years to come. The addition of four rebar handles, one at each corner of the latrine slab, allows the slab to be moved to cover a different latrine pit once the current pit is filled. The idea behind this design is that the slab does not need to be replaced, thus new materials will not need to be purchased – all that is required in the future is labor to dig a new latrine pit and carry the slab to the new location. This is the most sustainable way to construct a latrine because it will not require the family to spend more money in the future. The Latrine Committee will also continue to exist and raise funds when possible after the completion of the project. Their role will be to assist community members with latrine-related problems that they may encounter in the future, such as planning a workday to dig a new latrine pit, or assisting in the construction of new latrines. The committee will be fully trained in proper construction and maintenance of latrines, and should be able to provide guidance to community members in this topic.

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