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Rwanda: two unhygienic roadside Ecosan latrine blocks

Published on: 12/08/2011

Later on 22 July 2011 we visit two ecological toilet blocks on the Kigali highway that turn out to be not hygienic at all.

Later on 22 July 2011 we visit two ecological toilet blocks on the Kigali highway that turn out to be not hygienic at all. Our first stop is just outside the Rulindo District headquarter in the Northern Province, where we meet Mr. Diogene Bitunguranye, Acting Executive Secretary of the elected District Council. He was holding the fort, as the Mayor, vice Mayor, Executive Officer and Budget Officer were preparing the sanitation targets for the next financial year to be presented to the President next Tuesday.

Since 2008 they have constructed 11 of these Ecosan toilets, three on the main roads, and eight at primary schools on the initiative from parent-teachers associations.  Six of these were supported by UNICEF.

Photo: IRC/Dick de Jong, 2011

Paying for use not part of culture

At this toilet they have a local worker for keeping the block clean. He is paid by the district. They get a little money in from the 10 Rwandan francs users need to pay per visit. Paying for this is a new culture in Rwanda, so not many people pay, Mr. Bitunguranye says. No the council has not done a user satisfaction survey. But we see many busses stop here with people using the toilets. When the containers fill up, they give good manure for the fields, he adds.

We visit the Ecosan block on the road opposite the district offices. From a distance it looks OK, with a wash basin, soap and a tippy tap in place.

Handwashing unit, Photo: IRC/Dick de Jong, 2011

But on inspection inside the toilets my comments give a shock to Mr. Jackson Mugisha, Environment Facilitator of the Ministry of Local Government and Johnson Nkusi, CEO of the Rwandan Environmental NGO Forum. I see light from the collection chamber through the slab. In fact the collection chambers are 120 litre open drop boxes that are not linked with the slab. This means that flies from the excreta can still spread disease.

Photo: IRC/Dick de Jong, 2011

Photo: IRC/Dick de Jong, 2011

“Maybe construction teams require more training”

Jackson is grateful that I point this out to him. He says: “I have to send the Ministry of Infrastructure people here to check your observations that these are not hygienic ecological toilets. It may be that the construction teams require more training. Maybe all the technical teams require more training”.

After a drive of 90 minutes we visit another Eco latrines block on another main road in Kusiga sector, Rulindo district. Executive Secretary Eugene Nkubana receives us for a quick introduction. This unit was constructed in 2010 sponsored by UNICEF. Here I cannot see light through the slab, but it is using the same open drop box system. There is no soap visible here.

Photo: IRC/Dick de Jong, 2011

I ask about the local caretaker arrangements here. Dorothee Nyiramana is called in to show us around.

Photo: IRC/Dick de Jong, 2011

She is paid by the Sector, has not received training, but is part of the local hygiene committee. The containers with excreta were nearly full. When full they take the container to the field, dig a pit where they cover the excreta with fresh herbs and close it with soil and grass. After five months they open the pit and use the manure as fertiliser.

Dick de Jong