Enviro Loos offer relief to shack dwellers

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Windhoek

In an attempt to ensure that people living in informal settlements also have access to basic sanitation, a local firm rehabilitated ten Enviro Loo toilets in the Okahandja Park and Moses Garoeb constituencies.
The toilets were constructed in 2003 and funded by the City of Windhoek. Many informal settlement residents are confronted daily by the lack of proper sanitation facilities, which has created a deplorable situation with unhygienic open defecation in and around the townships.

The ‘flying toilet’, as it is known, has debuted in these areas, with residents having no alternative other than to relieve themselves in a plastic bag, which is then disposed of in riverbeds and other open areas.

Okahandja Park resident Ruth Katti, who uses the rehabilitated Enviro Loo toilet, says over the years they had to resort to using the riverbeds, as the toilets became very dirty and smelly. “The toilet seat was broken. The unit had filled up with water. There was also a baby thrown inside, so we were using the riverbed instead,” said Katti.

Now that the Enviro Loo toilets are functioning again and five households have been given the responsibility to look after the toilets and keep the cubicle clean, Katti is glad they do not have to walk to the riverbed at night anymore. Five households use one toilet, which is locked and each household has a key to it.

Omuramba Impact Investing CC’s executive director Dr Eline van der Linden and her team trained the users on the do’s and don’ts of the system, such not throwing bathwater, plastic bags or cans into the toilet. Use of newspaper instead of toilet paper, is not a problem for the Enviro Loo.

Van der Linden said after the toilets were installed in 2003 no one did community education to explain how to use the toilet and how to maintain it. The monthly maintenance and periodic removal of the dry waste was also not well taken care of. “Our wish is for the City of Windhoek to donate the toilets to the groups of households, as it creates ownership. Community sensitisation and education, as well as offering the ongoing maintenance service for the containers are critical ingredients to the success of this water-friendly system,” Van der Linden remarked.

She says the rehabilitation of the ten Enviro Loo units included a cleanout of the waste container, which was filled up with wet, instead of dry waste. “We replaced the toilet pots, fixed the doors, put locks on the doors and also on the lids of the containers. We created a bio-digestive environment by adding compost to the clean container. The toilets were mostly not in a usable state,” Van der Linden said. She noted that of equal importance is the element of community education, which includes the signing of a contract between each beneficiary household and her company on the use and care of the toilet, training on the user protocol, and on the daily cleaning protocol, and each group setting up a cleaning roster for the toilet. Omuramba staff perform a monthly maintenance visit to the toilets.

According to the 2011 Census, in the Okahandja Park informal settlement 36 percent of the households did not have access to basic sanitation that year, while in the Moses Garoeb Constituency nearly half of allhousehold (49 percent) did not have access to a toilet.

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