D20 Sanitation in emergencies

DisastersWater and sanitation
  • Adequate sanitation is rarely considered by communities when preparing for disasters. However, without it, there is no doubt that many more people will suffer or die following a disaster, due to the spread of disease.
  • Latrines should already be available near an emergency shelter. If not, they should be quickly dug. They must be at least 30 metres from the nearest water supply and deep enough to prevent contamination. Planks of wood can be used for the floor of a latrine and walls can be made of matting to allow privacy, particularly for women.
  • Children’s faeces are more dangerous in spreading disease than those of adults, so there must be facilities they are able to use. People also need to be able to wash their hands after using the latrines – with water and soap, if available, or sand or dust.

Discussion 
  • Why should we build and use latrines?
  • Are community members fully aware of the need for adequate sanitation at all times – not just following a disaster? A community that is fully aware and educated about the importance of good sanitation will be more likely to see the need for emergency sanitation following a disaster.
  • What would be needed to encourage good hygiene – such as a place to wash hands and cleaning arrangements for latrines?
  • Who would be responsible for organising and building latrines before a disaster? Where would be good places to build them?
  • Children’s faeces are known to carry a higher level of infectious parasites and diseases. Why should this be?
  • How can children be encouraged to use emergency latrines?
  • What are the likely difficulties in providing emergency latrines after a disaster?
  • Ideally there should be no more than 20 people using each latrine. What problems may there be in ensuring the latrine is kept clean? How could these be avoided?