Why, even with more access to toilets, women in a Kenyan slum avoid them

3 weeks 1 day ago
New toilet blocks in Mathare Valley informal settlement in Nairobi. Samantha Winter

About 2.3 billion people around the world lack access to basic toilets. This leads to poor sanitation and about 280,000 people per year die as a result. But the global sanitation crisis isn’t equally distributed. Women in developing countries are disproportionately burdened by the persistent lack of access to sanitation in their homes, communities, schools and public spaces.

Women and girls who rely on shared toilets, at schools or in densely populated urban settlements, lack privacy, safety and hygiene to comfortably manage their daily toilet and menstruation needs.

This threatens their health. Exposure to harmful bacteria in unsanitary environments puts women at risk of urinary tract infections, toxic shock syndrome and vaginal infections. Holding in their urine and faeces also puts them at risk of dehydration and haemorrhoids.

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Some smart ideas to make toilets fit for purpose in Africa's cities

3 weeks 3 days ago
Every flush by a typical toilet sends about 6 to 16 litres of fresh water to wastewater treatment centres. lchumpitaz/Shutterstock

About 23% of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to toilets while 31% with toilets use one’s that aren’t connected to a formal sanitation system. This means that more than half the people in sub-Saharan Africa live without proper sanitation – that’s about 570 million people.

One of the problems is that existing toilets aren’t a good fit for parts of sub-Saharan Africa because many areas lack water and there are often no proper plumbing or facilities to treat wastewater.

But there are solutions – toilets that are designed differently. We have come up with some innovative designs overcome the two biggest challenges – excessive use of water, and the fact that urine and faeces aren’t considered as resources.

The designs we suggest have a number of key features. Primarily, they use no water and store and treat urine and faeces separately. They include innovative technologies that reduce water and energy consumption – both vital steps if we’re going to start building smarter, greener cities.

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