Ending Open Defecation the Smart Way

Mr. Tenu demonstration how the Stand Alone toilet is used

Richard Tetteh is a 39 year old city guard of the Ashiaman municipal Assembly in the Greater Accra Region. He lives with his family of about ten in their house located in the Ashiaman community.

Twelve months ago, Richard and other members of his family had to use the public toilet as their place of convenience because they had no household toilet.

“We have to join other people at the public toilet every morning to use the facility and people see you and they ask where you are going,” he says.

He adds that the public toilet was unkempt and warm making it uncomfortable because of the smell that emanated from the toilet.

Richard however says the major problem they encountered while using the facility was when they wanted to use the toilet only to find out that the place has been closed for the day.

“When this happens we normally have to find our own way of freeing ourselves,” he says.

Richard after going through this for most part of his life had the opportunity to make a smart choice last year when the Ashiaman Municipal Assembly (ASHMA) through the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) sanitation project funded by Dutch government and the World Bank instituted the subsidized household toilets project.

The stand alone toiletThe stand alone toilet

The Interior of the Stand Alone ToiletThe Interior of the Stand Alone Toilet

Upon hearing about the project, Richard informed his family and they decided to go for the household toilet which they paid in installment.

“A lot of things have changes, normally when I used the public toilet, I have to go out where people will see me and ask all sorts of questions but now when I get up I fetch my water and I go straight to my own toilet in my house and before anybody sees me am dressed up going to work,” he says.

Ashiaman Municipality

The population of Ashaiman Municipality, according to the 2010 Population and Housing Census, is 190,972 representing 4.8 percent of the region’s total population.

The whole of the municipality is considered urban however a little over sixty percent (63.5) of households in the municipality use the public toilet with 4.0 percent having no toilet facility and therefore resort to the bush/beach/field.

Public Toilets Not Solution to Open Defecation (OD)

The Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in a newsletter indicate that providing public toilets rather entrenches Open Defecation.

According to the directorate, the policy on public latrines is for District Assemblies to arrange for the provision of public facilities in central business districts, major commercial and light industrial areas, local markets and public transport terminals (lorry/bus stations) mainly to be used by travelers.

The districts are also responsible for the promotion of the construction and use of household toilets, including the conversion of pan latrines to approved types.

Some argue that but for the existence of communal latrines in thousands of communities, open defecation rates could be higher than the current 19% since many houses have been constructed without toilets in several urban and rural communities and most of the residents would be compelled to practice open defecation since there would be no other choice.

The directorate however says the fact that the existence of these communal latrines is mostly the very cause of thousands of houses constructed without toilets. In most communities where communal latrines have been provided, open defecation is still very rife and residents cite several reasons for not wanting to use them.

Some of which include lack of privacy, poor hygiene, inconvenience, insecurity and waste of productive time, leading in some cases the abandoning of the communal latrines.

Ashiaman GAMA Projects

Based on the sanitation challenges that face many urban communities in the Greater Accra region and the task assigned to the various municipal assemblies to exploring more alternative and cost effective latrine technology options to facilitate the promotion of household toilets, the Ashiaman Municipal Assembly under the (GAMA) project came up with a smart way of providing household toilets.

During the first phase of the project, the assembly instituted a team called the rapid response taskforce which helped to sensitize the people on using public toilet as to the pan latrines which the assembly decommissioned.

“During that project the assembly with the support of Safi Sana a sanitation company, provided 13 public toilets in the communities,” says Kwesi Adu Gyamfi, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of ASHMA.

“We have finished phase one of the GAMA project and we at Ashiaman decided to go in for helping households in the provision of household toilets in the second phase,” Henry Tenu, ASHMA environmental Health Officer states.

He says the Assembly decided to go in for household toilets because they realized that the spread of communicable diseases was on the increase and one way to get rid of communicable diseases by improving sanitation was to provide household toilets in the communities

Mr. Tenu says the assembly has sensitized the community to move from the public toilets to the household toilets because, “when they go to the public toilet they free themselves but end up picking up germs and other diseases because the place is not hygienic.”

Stand Alone Toilet

The assembly in collaboration with Safi Sana Company since last year has been providing a toilet facility which has a biofil technology incorporated at a reduced price for members of the community.

The ‘Stand Alone toilet’ as it is called, is a small toilet facility on its own super structure which has a micro-organism introduced into it to feed on the feaces and turn them into soil while taking away the odor.

The stand alone toilet is good for households where there is little space and can serve a family of 10 to 15 people.

When it is full after an estimated three to five years of usage, the household can open and scoop the sand and use it as manure or fertilizer.

“So far 40 households are using it and we are still constructing more because we are targeting about 2000 households in this project,” says Mr. Tenu.

The price of the toilet which is designed to ensure best sanitation practice is also shared between the assembly and the community members.

“The cost have been subsidized to GH¢3000 but because the assembly wants to help, the first 100 people to register will pay GH¢1500, while assembly bears the other GH¢1500,” he says.

“We are not only doing only this toilet facility in particular, it is open to every toilet household so whatever toilet you want to put up assuming it is accepted by the world health organization standard we will support you to do it.

We also have the digester for households who already have a toilet facility. Its costs GH1800 but households will only payGH900,” Mr. Tenu indicates.”This is cost effective because in the long run the household benefits more.”

He says after installation the whole house is educated on how to use and keep it clean which is followed with intermittent visits to inspect how it is being used.

He however warned against putting rubbers and paper into the pit and destroys the micro organism and prevented them from working effectively, “It comes with no scent but where you have a smell then something is wrong,” he notes.

He said apart from the stand alone toilet the assembly has another project target at those who cannot afford the stand alone toilet.

“A project under GAMA targeted at low income areas, with no assessable road, space is a challenge and water table high,” he says.

Such people are going to benefit from the Output Based Aid (OBA) which have a special package they can chose the kind of facility they want and government will bear most of the cost.”

Benefits

Mr. Tenu said the Stand Alone Toilet encourages hand washing which is one of the key elements in helping to reduce communicable diseases.

“So the idea is that you fetch a cup of water pour into the hand washing basin and it runs into the pipe network into the system where you have to sit and do your own thing.

After you press the handle and it is flashed down then you wash your hands so that there will be water in the system for the next person to use,” he explains. “In one way or the other it is to check the system and encourage hand washing a cup of water is enough to flash.”

He also pleaded with landlords, landladies to ensure they have a toilet facility in their homes and tenants to insist on the provision of toilets before they rent the house.

“Tenants have to put in more pressure on land lords and ladies to provide these facilities for them because with this it has helped a lot.”

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri

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