Sanitation is the planning and application of measures to
maintain a healthy environment. These measures should apply to water supply,
sewage and garbage disposal, and control of disease-carrying insects and
A community's water supply may come from a ground water well, a
spring, a stream, a river or a lake. Unless there is a community-wide water
purification system, whatever water there is should be considered to be a
potential source of infection and parasites, because human or animal feces or
urine, or other untreated sewage, often infect the supply. Therefore, water
should be disinfected by each user. The most effective method of preventing
water-carried infection and parasites is to boil the water hard for at least ten
minutes. This kills bacteria and parasite eggs in the water.
Water purification can be done on a community-wide basis by
adding chlorine or iodine to a water storage area. These methods are discussed
in the Village Technology Handbook by VITA (See Chapter Sources).
A health center should be concerned with educating a community
to develop a clean water source. This would involve educating people to (1)
build and use latrines, not the river or lake; (2) put their garbage in compost
piles not in or near the water supply; (3) not bathe in the water supply; (4)
keep domestic animals out of the water supply; (5) Use erosion control
techniques to keep topsoil from washing into the water supply. Other local
sources of water contamination should be studied and remedied.
Sewage is the term used for human wastes. Sewage can be properly
disposed of by use of latrines. Latrines can be built for each family, or one or
several can be built for the community as a whole. A family is likely to keep
its latrine clean, and is likely to use it; too often no one feels personal
responsibility for keeping the community latrine clean or in good repair. Where
possible, you should encourage people to build family rather than community
A pit latrine is basically a hand-dug hole in the ground,
covered with a slab, preferably of concrete, either for squatting or with a
seat. A shelter is built around it. Human wastes are isolated and stored in the
pit latrine, so that no harmful bacteria or parasites can be passed on from the
wastes to new hosts. In the pit, the wastes decompose, first into odorous
ammonia products, then into nitrites and nitrates. This decomposition process
generally kills the majority of harmful organisms. An exception is the
hookworm's eggs which remain alive for up to five months in wet. sandy soil.
Hookworm larvae can climb up pit walls and survive on a cracked
wooden or earth floor, and once there, they can be picked up by bare feet. It is
highly recommended that a concrete slab provide the cover for the pit and that
it be effectively and frequently flushed with water. Flies are common carriers
of disease organisms found in feces. They crawl and feed on this material, which
sticks to the flies' bodies, and which later to the flies' bodies, and which
later may be deposited on human food, either directly or through the fly's
feces. For this reason, it is important to try to discourage flies in a latrine.
The best way to do this is to plan a well-ventilated, dark shelter, since flies
do not like darkness, Use fine-mesh screening to cover openings if it is
available. A 10% surface layer (2.5 cm) of borax has been found to discourage
flies. Use of insecticides has been found to develop a fly population resistant
to insecticide control. A cover for the nit opening in strongly suggested.
A health center should provide help and information about
latrine building. The most complete source of information and directions is
Excreta Disposal for Rural and Small Communities, published by WHO,
portions of which appear in Village Technology Handbook by VITA.
You should build a pit latrine at an easy distance from the home
so as not to discourage its use. It should be down-hill from any ground water
supply, in a dry, well-drained area, above flood level. Around the latrine,
clear an area 2 m wide of all vegetation and debris, to discourage shelter for
animals and insects. This may be done gradually, to gain acceptance of a latrine
in a spot where the surrounding vegetation was formerly used.
Since each geographical area will have certain taboos about the
collection and disposal of human waste, you will have to identify these before
developing an acceptable solution. Privacy and the separation of the sexes may
be important considerations. (Also see Appendix E).
Garbage is basically food waste, but can also include other
unwanted materials such as paper, cans, bottles. The more a community consumes,
the more garbage to be disposed of.
From a conservation standpoint, food wastes should be returned
to the soil as a compost material. This adds both nutrients and organic
materials to the soil which will increase its fertility. See Appendix C, for
information on making a compost pile. A compost pile can be a family or a
community project. If there is space available outside a health center, a
demonstration compost pile can be built with organic wastes from the community
members. When the compost is ready for garden use, it can form the basis for a
demonstration garden, or can be divided among the community members for their
own garden use.
Non-organic wastes such as metals or glass should be disposed of
in a single community site, a large pit for example, to keep the community clean
and free from litter. If possible, the disposal area should be visually
separated from the community, either by distance or by a screen of