Lessons to be learned – Why Million Latrines Won’t Solve Africa’s Sanitation

Sanitation is a major problem in Africa and has, in fact, severe negative impacts on water quality, public health, tourism, eco- and animal production, and sustainable socio-economic developments in general. A local market in Port Harcourt in Nigeria, shown here, gives an example of the scale of sanitation problems that can be found in different parts of Africa.

The millennium development goals are now only four years away from the deadline. More than 70% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is still without adequate sanitation, in 200 years just half of sub-Saharan African population will hopefully have access to safe private toilets.

Many technologies designed to solve problems are not developed in Africa, they are parachuted into Africa. There some work, most don’t; why do they fail to work in local Africa context; explanations are given in the article below (see the link). Lesson to be learned should be simple: know the area; know the people. Talking and listening to the people on the ground gives the answers needed for long-lasting and sustainable moves out of poverty, also policies required on how to educate people about sanitation and hygiene and to bring about changes in behavior. Resistance to using a latrine may include beliefs that one might be possessed by demons, lose magical powers or live a shorter life. Some believe a toilet is meant only for wealthy people or that, if somebody feeds you, you should in turn defecate in their field.

However, there are tested approaches and many are hoping that they can bring similar results to Africa. WaterAid is adapting Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in West Africa. First conceived in Bangladesh, it is a concept that has been sweeping across south Asia with impressive results. The concept is based on an understanding that the people themselves have the solutions and are best able to determine which interventions will enable them to attain a self-defined, collective destiny. Empowering local communities with knowledge emanated from them to solve their own problems is the best way to improve health across the continent in a much more sustainable manner.



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