Use Proper Sanitary Facilities to Prevent Spread of Diseases

Carmen Griffith, Executive Director of Construction Resource Development Centre (CRDC) is urging persons to refrain from the practice of open defecation and to instead install proper toilet or waste disposal facilities to curb the spread of harmful diseases.
She said that one gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, one thousand parasite cysts, and a hundred worm eggs.
Even more disturbing than these statistics is the fact that to this day, in many communities throughout Jamaica people are actually defecating or throwing human waste in the open.
“It happens usually in rural areas, where you would probably pass and see children defecating in open areas, but it has become more of a trend now in urban areas,” she says.
“This occurs in such urban areas as inner city communities or areas where people live in close proximity to each other without actually having proper sanitary infrastructure”, she says further. She notes that the practice is extremely unsafe, as improper disposal of faecal matter could cause serious illness and in fact, can kill.
According to a report from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), lack of safe sanitation as it relates to excrement or other waste, is the world’s biggest cause of infection and is the number one enemy of world health.
“One of the most obvious health problems is the whole issue of diarrhoea. The faeces carries with it germs and there is a whole chart that tells you the amount of germs contained in just a single gram of faeces, and so when those come in contact with humans, through handling with the hands and then the hand goes into the mouth, then the result is diarrhoea and all the spin offs from it,” Ms. Griffith tells JIS News.
She further informs that in these instances the most vulnerable and most affected groups are very young children and the elderly.
In addition to diarrhoea, there are other illnesses, which can result from exposure to faecal matter. “Hepatitis B is another area of concern because this can be spread in water and can be very serious. Worm infestation is also a serious problem.
If someone has worms and those worm eggs or even the live worms pass out in the faeces, and persons come into contact with those eggs by, for example walking barefooted in areas where there is an infestation of these eggs or worms – round worms, hook worms, thread worms, then these start boring into the skin and go into the blood stream,” the CRDC Executive Director explains.
Continuing, Ms. Griffith points out that open defecation also has severe implications for the environment as unsanitary disposal of infected human faeces can lead to the contamination of the ground sources of water.
“Once it [faeces] comes into contact with water, water carries it a little further. So let’s say we have five or six areas where there’s defecation taking place and there is a shower of rain, all of that goes into the canals or the nearest drainage area, and all of that surface water is really going to be heading out to the larger bodies of water, which are the oceans and rivers.
“Further contamination takes place when the germs associated with the faeces travel into those bodies of water and people come into contact with them, with people swimming in that water, people eating fish.” she explains.
Faecal matter also provides the sites and opportunity for certain species of flies and mosquitoes to lay their eggs, breed, or feed on the exposed material and thus carry infection. It also attracts domestic animals, rodents and other vermin which spread the faeces and with it, the potential for disease.
For its part, the CRDC, which was established in 1983, has been working to assist households in getting on-site sanitation solutions that are safe for the environment. These solutions can take the form of flushable toilets or pit latrines.
Persons who cannot afford to install a flushable toilet in their houses should make provisions for a pit latrine to be constructed on the property, Ms. Griffith says, and the CRDC suggests that persons invest in the Ventilated Improved Double Pit latrine, commonly referred to as the VIDP.
“These are latrines with two chambers. You dig two holes that are cemented in properly so that nothing goes through there and so the environment is protected, or you could use plastic tanks that also contains the faeces in the area that it is deposited.
You use one side and when that side is full, homeowners are shown how to close that off, and move the seat to the other side, which is empty,” she explains.
Using the VIDP is not only practical and cost-effective but it is also ideal for homes with very little land space.
“When one side is full and properly sealed off, the household can use the empty side while the side that is full, is breaking down. This is a slow process, but at the end of 2 1/2 years it is relatively safe to empty that toilet. There is however the danger that some of the germs or worm eggs may not have died off, so care must be taken when emptying the contents of these pits, and we recommend that you bury what comes out of these chambers,” Ms. Griffith cautions.
This waste is good fertilizer for hardy trees such as ackee and banana, she adds. Once the contents are safely disposed, the now-empty pit can be used again, and the process continued.
While there are great benefits to installing the VIDP, Ms. Griffith does not advise its use in communal settings.
“We really would not go off recommending VIDP’s for a number of persons because when it comes to emptying them, unless there is really good training and the people are really committed to make the system work, then you are going to have a problem, because one pit is going to fill up and nobody is going to empty it and the other pit will fill up and again no one will empty it and then we are back to square one,” she told JIS News.
A Ventilated Improved Double Pit latrine is recommended for use by a maximum of five persons.

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