Shared Sanitation - reviewing several people's papers on this topic

  • F H Mughal
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Shared Sanitation

Shared Sanitation

Experts, like Barbara Evans, Andrés Hueso, Richard Johnston, Guy Norman, Eddy Pérez, Tom Slaymaker and Sophie Trémolet (formerly of Tremolet Consulting, now in World Bank), have written a editorial titled: Editorial: Limited services? The role of shared sanitation in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They have urged the policymakers and donors to recognise the role the 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. They further argue that this is a indispensable step for better health and dignity of the urban poor.

Duncan Mara of University of Leeds was kind enough to send me a paper: “Shared sanitation: to include or to exclude?” Mara appears to be more specific. He says:

Just over 600 million people used shared sanitation in 2015, but this form of sanitation is not considered ‘improved sanitation’ or, in the current terminology, ‘basic sanitation’ by WHO/UNICEF, principally because they are typically unhygienic. Recent research has shown that neighbour-shared toilets perform much better than large communal toilets. The successful development of community-designed, built and managed sanitation-and-water blocks in very poor urban areas in India should be adapted and adopted throughout urban slums in developing countries, with a caretaker employed to keep the facilities clean. Such shared sanitation should be classified as ‘basic’, sometimes as ‘safely-managed’, sanitation, so contributing to the achievement of the sanitation target of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mara has coined the term “neighbour-shared toilets,” and says neighbour-shared toilets perform much better than large communal toilets. This makes sense - neighbour-shared toilets, with services of a caretaker, can perform better than large communal toilets.

On the other hand, authors (which include Sandy Cairncross), writing under “Determinants of quality of shared sanitation facilities in informal settlements: case study of Kisumu, Kenya,” say: “Shared facilities, most of which were dirty, were shared by an average of eight households, and their quality decreased with an increase in the number of households sharing.”

Another paper, “User Perceptions of Shared Sanitation among Rural Households in Indonesia and Bangladesh,” says:

Our results suggest that private improved sanitation is consistently preferred over any other sanitation option. An increased number of users appeared to negatively affect toilet cleanliness, and lower levels of cleanliness were associated with lower levels of satisfaction. However, when sanitation facilities were clean and shared by a limited number of households, users of shared facilities often reported feeling both satisfied and safe.”

Another paper: “Menstrual Hygiene Practices, WASH Access and the Risk of Urogenital Infection in Women from Odisha, India,” says: “Interventions that ensure women have access to private facilities with water for MHM and that educate women about safer, low-cost MHM materials could reduce urogenital disease among women.”

During Hajj (a Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia), where on an average 2.5 million people move from one to another, I found that when toilets are adequate (in numbers), and more importantly, toilet cleaners are always there, toilets remained clean and tidy. On the other hand, shared toilets here in Sindh province, Pakistan, are extremely dirty, pathetic and unhygienic.

So, the bottom line is: if the shared sanitation is opted, then frequent cleaning is the key to their success.

F H Mughal
PS: Protracted length of this post may be excused.

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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