W25 Emergency latrines

SanitationHygieneWater and sanitation

Latrines take a long time to plan and build well. Sometimes there may be situations when there is no time to build proper latrines, such as after disasters. Set aside an area of land to use as a public latrine and make sure everyone uses this. Dig two separate trenches at the edge furthest away from where people are living, one for men and one for women. Provide some kind of screening for privacy. Make sure the women’s latrine is in a safe place so they will not be afraid to use it.

When one trench is nearly full, cover it with soil and dig another trench next to it. Starting at the farthest edge prevents people from needing to walk over used trenches. Though people may not be too happy using an emergency latrine, it will protect their health and keep water and food supplies safe. It may also avoid the risk of cholera and other diseases.

Cleaning materials may need to be provided – paper, leaves or water, depending on the situation and cultural practices. Water used for cleaning the body after passing faeces will always contain microbes. Make sure containers are cleaned regularly and this water is disposed of safely. It is also very important that water and soap is provided to allow people to wash their hands.


  • Does anyone have any experience of emergency situations? What kind of latrines, if any, were available? What were the results?
  • This type of emergency latrine would not take too long to organise. However, it would probably be much harder to make sure everybody uses it. How could this be done?
  • What possible risks would women and young girls experience in using this kind of latrine? What could be done to reduce this risk?
  • What kind of materials could be used to provide simple screens for privacy? How could these be made and used?
  • In an emergency it is easy to think that ‘other people’ should organise water supplies and latrines. However, who would have authority to do this in our community? What kind of training might help them to be ready to respond if necessary?