Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

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  • joeturner
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

So, to be clear, are some arguing that there is nothing bad - in and of itself - about shared sanitation systems, it is the way that they are used which is the problem?

But isn't human nature that it will become a "tragedy of the commons"? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

or alternatively that powerful people will limit access to shared sanitation facilities to prevent "undesirable" people from making a mess?
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

Not really (I think), this quote from the article linked above seems to point out the main issue with the definition of shared sanitation:

We also argue that it is necessary to have a new look at how we define shared sanitation and use specific sub-categories including household shared (sharing between a limited number of households who know each other), public toilets (intended for a transient population, but most often the main sanitation facility for poor neighbourhoods) and institutional toilets (workplaces, markets etc.). This sub-classification will identify those depending on household shared sanitation, which we consider to be only a small step away from achieving access to private and improved sanitation.


The problem is not by who & how they are used, but how they are managed.
Furthermore, a public facility will always be at best a supplementary service to another more private toilet near the house and will always be quite expensive to keep in good & sufficiently clean working order (just imagine having a few hundred guests in your house every day).
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  • thilde
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

Dear Makowa,
I find that answer (to a very complex question) to be highly normative and simplifying; "Just imagine what it would be like to stand in a queu for a toilet..."

Yes, just imagine! Millions of people are doing that on a daily basis!
And they DO NOT have the option in the next generation or two to have their own toilet!
This is particularly true in poor urban areas - now making op the MAJORITY of the Worlds populations habitats! So sticking to a rigid no-to-shared-sanitation under any circumstances parole, would essentially rule out toilets for a HUGE Group of the Worlds population!

I really do think we need to be less rigid and more creative and flexible in our toilet-definitions and sanitation goals - we need 'sanitation pragmatism' instead of Engineering-based or emotional arguments. We need to look at the data; WHO Is in need of (better) toilets, and how can we get closer to the goals of improved toilets for all.

This quote from THE SAME article as you quoted, shows how:

"We argue that the focus for future sanitation programmes should be on improving the
hygienic standards of shared facilities to a level that satisfies and protects sanitation users – irrespective of the toilet design. If well managed, household shared sanitation CAN BE a feasible, economical, practical and a socially acceptable choice of sanitation for millions of sanitation users"
Thilde Rheinländer,
Researcher with interests in socio-cultural factors in WASH
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

Hi Joe,
Just to make it clear; YES; the definition of 'shared toilets' as being 'UNIMPROVED' is NOT based on the design or technical standards of the toilet.

It is ONLY based on the fact that it is being shared, and hypothesized that it therefore will be dirty.

The definition of shared sanitation from JMP is:
“sanitation of an otherwise acceptable type shared between two or more households.”

You are right, that this builds on the very likely assumption, that no one will take ownership over this type of toilet and esnure cleanliness and hygiene - because many share it.

BUT; my point with the article is to say; We can not just turn the blind eye to the millions of people who now share toilets, and just keep on telling them; 'to build your own toilets'. This is just not feasible for many many thousands of people!

See my response to Makalow in this thread for more details.

Regards,
Thilde

NB; There are may initiatives to create business models for public toilets around the Worlds, which proves that sharing does not neccesarily mean 'dirty' - but INCOME and BUSINESS for some entreprenual people running nice public toilets.
Thilde Rheinländer,
Researcher with interests in socio-cultural factors in WASH
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  • joeturner
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

But Thilde, if as you say there is a "very likely assumption" that nobody will take responsibility for shared toilets and by implication that they will become dirty and poorly kept - then why should they be regarded as acceptable forms of sanitation provision under the SDGs? How many shared toilets actually are acceptable? Is not the assumption that shared facilities are normally inadequate something that is well known?

I do think you are being a bit harsh in your reply to Krischan, who did not appear to me to be attacking your report but voicing an opinion.
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

Indeed, sorry if this was not clear from my reply, but I pretty much agree with the article (and you Thilde) that the JMP's definition of "shared toilet = unimproved" is overly simplistic and sharing a toilet between neighbours and having it for example managed by the landlord is a perfectly feasible step on the sanitation ladder and should be counted as improved by the JMP.

I do however agree with the JMP that shared toilets as in "public" toilets can not be counted as "improved"; not for technical but managerial reasons and also the fact that distances and access conditions are usually unattractive to the prospective users especially during the night.
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

Hi,
Yes, I highly agree that we need to take a more nuanced approach to defnining shared sanitation. Grpoup sanitation, or multiple-Family sanitation is a positive Development.

But is it really so that we should never consider if public toilets could be an almost improved toilet in some places?

I am wondering about this questions my self...In my own research in Ghana, we see very nice and clean public toilets popping up now in peri-urban communities, run by a private-oublic enterprises, which channels money back to the community. Yes, its inconvenient indeed to having to go out for using a toilet. nd many people would like to have their own off course.

But in this community, due to soil conditions, the nearby sea, migrant population and poverty, using a public toilet is practical for many people. The public toilets also include nice showers for the fishermen, who needs daily baths to wash the salt of their bodies, and its popular.

So how should we acknowledge this? Should we still insist on private toilets for all here? And not fund public toilets? I am pro a more contextually informed sanitation approach. I believe we must have a look at the communities and their conditions, before pushing a private-toilets approach on to everyone.

But what is your thought on this?

Regards,
Thilde Rheinländer
Thilde Rheinländer,
Researcher with interests in socio-cultural factors in WASH
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Re: Should shared sanitation services be considered 'improved' sanitation? (and MDG implications)

thilde wrote: In my own research in Ghana, we see very nice and clean public toilets popping up now in peri-urban communities, run by a private-public enterprises, which channels money back to the community. Yes, its inconvenient indeed to having to go out for using a toilet. And many people would like to have their own off course.

But in this community, due to soil conditions, the nearby sea, migrant population and poverty, using a public toilet is practical for many people. The public toilets also include nice showers for the fishermen, who needs daily baths to wash the salt of their bodies, and its popular.


Well managed public toilets are great and governments and other organisations should not stop building and operating them!

But when looking at public toilets from a public-health point of view (as the JMP does), they are only a nice supplementary service that helps some people (those that are willing to pay the fee), some of the time (during opening hours or when they can be safely accessed, i.e. usually only during the day, especially for women).

Even with nice public facilities in place, there will be still a lot of people that continue to defecate in the open or use other unsafe toilets, at least some times (quite often actually). And that is under optimal conditions... more often public toilets blocks quickly deteriorate into actual health hazards due to miss management or lack of funds to maintain them.

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Note by moderator: The discussion continues in this thread: forum.susana.org/182-sustainable-develop...y-managed-sanitation
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