The impact of latrine construction on public health in developing countries

In developing countries, each latrine construction is a giant step towards a better future for people. These facilities, much more than simple conveniences, represent a protective shield against diseases. They are a major public health issue. But that's not all! They are vectors of development, and a symbol of hope for millions of people. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2.3 billion people in the world still do not have access to basic health facilities!

Let's join forces to build a future where everyone can live in dignity.


Ending open defecation


The construction of latrines or toilets goes hand in hand with the end of the practice of open defecation. It is decreasing, but the UN reports that still 673 million people are affected, 91% of whom live in rural areas. In Madagascar for example, according to UNICEF 40% of the population practices it namely 10 million individuals! Its elimination by 2030 is one of Sustainable Development Goals. But why is it so important to overcome them by setting up latrines?

 

At LIFE, we are building latrines in many countries. Especially in Bangladesh! In the district of Moulvibazar, sanitary facilities in disadvantaged households are rare. Most of the inhabitants work in tea gardens, which pay them low salaries. In this context, it is impossible for them to invest in basic sanitary and hygienic facilities. In fact, 31% don't have a toilet at all! In the villages of Shaitula, Nimai Shibbari, Isoppur, Isoppur, Majdhee Pahar, Kalapur, Sirajnagar and Baruna, we built 106 latrines. No less than 551 people will benefit from it, i.e. 106 households.

 

Latrines built by the NGO LIFE, Bangladesh, 2023

Reducing health risks thanks to latrines


Defecation in the open exposes individuals to a high risk of contracting faecal diseases. Indeed, human faeces contain pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can contaminate water, soil, and food. As a result, people who don't use a toilet for their needs or who live near unsafe defecation sites are more likely to develop illnesses such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Building latrines offers an effective solution by providing a safe and hygienic way to dispose of waste, thus reducing the risk of transmission of these diseases.

Did you know that? A latrine works by directing faeces into an underground pit where they break down naturally through biological processes. Toilets are more modern installations equipped with bowls that are connected not to a pit, but to a sewage system.

Preserving water quality with latrines


Toilets contribute to maintaining water quality and protecting the environment. Why? When faeces are disposed of improperly, they can contaminate drinking water sources and surrounding soils, causing health problems and ecological damage. By using latrines, communities avoid pollution in their environment and safeguard their water resources for future needs.

Did you know that? For World Water Day on 22 March 2024, UNICEF has published a report in which she said that, every day, more than 1,000 children under the age of 5 died from diseases linked to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation. And this is especially the case in Africa.


A vector for improving the quality of life


For communities that benefit from access to latrines, the benefits go well beyond simply preventing disease. These facilities provide dignity, safety, and comfort to individuals. Thanks to them, children can go to school without worrying about the absence of toilets. Young girls can go back to school during their periods.

Did you know that? According to UNICEF one school out of three does not have a toilet adequate and 23% of schools do not have toilets at all.

At LIFE, we organize numerous latrine construction campaigns with our component OASIS action. In Africa, or even in Bangladesh, and in many other countries, we are bringing smiles and hope back to entire villages. Access to drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and the establishment of sanitation services, we approach public health in a comprehensive manner.

Installation of latrines by the NGO LIFE, Lebanon, 2023

The dangers for women and girls behind the lack of access to the toilet


Thanks to the construction of latrines or toilets, girls and women are less exposed to dangers when they have to relieve themselves during the night, especially in areas where personal safety is already precarious. Without these facilities, they may be forced to travel to remote or insecure locations to meet their physiological needs, exposing them to risks of assault, sexual violence, or dangerous encounters with wildlife. Additionally, the absence of latrines may also limit their mobility, especially at night, which may affect their ability to participate in social or economic activities after sunset, leaving them potentially vulnerable to exploitation or street hazards.

Construction of latrines by the NGO LIFE, Bangladesh, 2023

The way to strengthen the resilience of populations


By investing in the construction of latrines or toilets, governments and international organizations contribute to strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of health challenges. Programs to promote hygiene and sanitation are essential to raise awareness about the importance of these facilities and to encourage sustainable hygiene practices.


A step towards sustainable development


Latrines and toilets are not only health structures, but also vectors of sustainable development. By improving global public health, they promote economic productivity and help break the vicious cycle of poverty. Moreover, by reducing the pressure on natural resources, especially water, they contribute to the preservation of the environment for future generations.


Latrines combined with sanitation services


The construction of latrines must be combined with sanitation initiatives for several important reasons:


A comprehensive approach to public health


Without proper management of wastewater and solid waste, latrines themselves can become potential sources of contamination for the environment and local water sources.

Making a latrine is therefore not enough. In particular, it is necessary to take care of its periodic emptying, for example, to avoid the accumulation of organic waste.

The solution is to adopt a holistic approach to sanitation, which integrates the construction of latrines with other hygiene and sanitation measures. It makes it possible to better meet the health and environmental needs of communities.

 

Inauguration of a drinking water well built by the NGO LIFE, Cameroon, 2020


More effective protection of public health 


Comprehensive sanitation, which includes the construction of latrines as well as other health infrastructures and services such as wastewater treatment plants, makes it possible to protect public health more effectively. By eliminating sources of contamination and providing access to adequate sanitation facilities, we can reduce the spread of waterborne diseases and improve the well-being of populations.


Long-term effects


Sanitation initiatives that integrate latrines with other components, such as wastewater treatment and solid waste management, are more sustainable. They help create sanitary and hygienic environments that promote the health and well-being of the population over the long term, rather than simply providing a temporary solution to an immediate problem.


The importance of awareness and education


To maximize the impact of latrines on public health, it is crucial to conduct awareness-raising and education campaigns at the local level. People need to understand the benefits of appropriate hygiene practices and be encouraged to adopt healthy health behaviors. Training programs on the construction, maintenance and use of latrines are also essential to ensure their long-term effectiveness.

Raising villagers' awareness of the need to use latrines, Bangladesh

The need to fight against inequalities in access to latrines


Despite progress, many communities in developing countries continue to suffer from limited access to latrines. Rural populations, peri-urban areas and marginalized groups are often the most affected by this lack of health infrastructure. It is therefore imperative to target these areas and to implement inclusive policies to ensure equitable access to latrines.


Collaboration and partnerships


Addressing the challenges associated with accessing latrines requires a multi-dimensional approach involving governments, international organizations, NGOs, private businesses, and local communities. Collaboration between these actors is essential to mobilize the necessary resources, share best practices, and implement sustainable solutions globally.



In a world facing increasing health challenges, the construction of latrines represents a tangible way to improve public health and promote the well-being of the population in developing countries. Each latrine built is an investment in a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future for all.

 

It is time to join forces and redouble our commitment to ensure that no one is left behind in this crucial quest for a better future.

 

 

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