Monday, May 26, 2008

Sanitation 101


I spent a week in April in Samanyada village, about a 15 minute drive outside of Ntcheu .It was nice to put day-to-day work on the M&E system on hold and spend some time connecting with villagers involved in the project. Getting to know a community of welcoming, friendly people was also exactly what I needed to feel like I was starting to find a home here in Malawi. It was also good to see Concern Universal’s project from ground level.

Concern Universal works with villagers in Malawi to encourage them to build sanitary facilities that can help protect/improve their health. But what exactly are sanitary facilities? Lukily during my village stay I was able to observe sanitary facilities in their natural habitat, and so I can bring you Campbell’s Field Guide to Sanitary Facilities – Malawi.

The ‘Big Two’ of sanitary facilities in Malawi are the improved pit latrine and the hand-washing facility, which ideally live in close proximity to each other.

The improved pit latrine evolved from the traditional pit latrine (which is also an ancestor of the Canadianis Outhousis), its primary improvement being a cement sanitary platform (sanplat) that covers the top of the pit. The sanplat opening has a cover, allowing the improved latrine to control odour and prevent flies from escaping from its pit and spreading disease. The close cousin to the improved pit latrine, the ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, has further evolved a ventilation pipe attached to the pit to further control odour. A fly screen at the outlet of the pipe allows the VIP latrine to trap flies.
The hand-washing facility relies on its forked-stick body and brown clay bowl to help it blend in with the natural environment. It has a plastic cup or bottle with holes punched in the bottom that releases a steady stream of water. The most used hand-washing facilities have developed symbiotic relationships with flowers that take advantage of the water flowing from them. Unfortunately there are some concerns about how many hand-washing facilities are actually used in the wild.
My friend Tinyade demonstrates!

There are, in addition to the ‘Big Two’ supported by CU, a number of sanitary facilities not mentioned in the project document that are nonetheless promoted in the field and measured by the M&E system – sort of the zebra muscles of sanitary facilities, if you will.

Bathing shelters have a distinctive texture due to their walls of grass or reeds. Field researchers have predicted that in the cold months of May and June loud yelps will issue from the bathing shelters as Canadian volunteers experience their early morning bucket showers.

Malawian kitchens can be attached to the main dwelling or in a separate building. They usually contain a charcoal stove or 3 stones to balance pots over an open flame.

The dish rack spends most of its day basking in the bright Malawian sun, allowing the dishes that perch on its back to dry and preventing standing water from collecting.

Finally, the common drying line is found across the world without much variation in population ;)

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