By Sembera Simon
Member Water Youth Network, WASH and Technologies Working Group.
I personally know the full journey and final destination of my poo, mainly in an urban setting, where I spend most of my time. The wastewater management systems installed in most of the houses in our urban and peri-urban areas allows its transportation and treatment. The provision of reliable water services from the National Water and Sewerage Corporation utility facilitates adequate sanitation management, and with adequate water seals and working traps you can easily sense any inconvenience from the toilet. The poo is safely transported to the septic and soak away pits or connected to the public sewers for final disposal, or, in other cases, authorized cesspool emptier jump into action and take the faecal sludge for treatment at designated treatment plants.
This process is what happens in urban areas. But there are these main places in our lives, the rural areas, where we originate, that shares different realities. I am from Busesa, in Iganga District. It is a trading center with a relatively higher population than the neighbouring villages of Ibaako, Kagamba, Namiyangu and Idudi, for example. All these rural communities do not have tap water per household, but rather point water sources (boreholes and spring wells). This means that you have to walk a considerable distance and spend time fetching water for domestic use. Thus, the water fetched is very valuable, and it would be hard to use it to clean the toilet or ever handwashing, since it so hard to get it. With this rural background, a high percentage of the population chooses pit latrines and open defecation. But the main question is: where does this poo end up?
For those with pit latrines, some might have fly proof lids, which means the poo will end up in the toilet till the cesspool will come for emptying when it is full and take it for final treatment. Others might have toilets with no fly proof lead, which means that they will drop their poo in the pit but, with the help of flies, this poo will be immediately transported from the pit to their food, for example. This circle will repeat, meaning that you will be ingesting pathogens from the raw faeces, and this is the same for open defecation where some of the pathogens, due to erosion, it will also end up in surface water sources and leach to the groundwater, causing diarrhoea and waterborne diseases.
As a believer in Open Defecation Free (ODF) communities, I believe that is not adequate to eat or drink somebody else’s (or my) poo. In our Tusenvule think tank, we have decided to trigger communities towards ODF through Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and by this we have awakening the society about where our poo should end up, and where it should not end up (food and water sources or breast for the young babies). This model has now been unrolled in three districts and we are planning to take it through the whole of eastern region still with hope of sharing experiences with countrywide communities who could be practicing Open Defecation and ending either drinking or eating their own or other’s poo.