What should people who have no access to sanitation facilities do and how can you minimize risk?
Where normal sanitation structures have been damaged or destroyed it is essential to provide toilet facilities immediately. Emergency facilities are usually provisional and need to be progressively improved or replaced as the situation develops.
Designated defecation fields or areas can be used where enough space is available. These work best in hot, dry climates and should be clearly marked, fenced (if possible), and protected against flooding. They should be located downwind and away from living areas, avoid water courses, and at a reasonable distance (minimum 50m) from water points. Shovels should be provided to families so that they can dig small holes to defecate into and cover their faeces with dirt. Collective trench latrines may also be an option. In longer term situations or after the initial emergency period has subsided, it may be more practical to build simple pit latrines, VIP latrines, or poor-flush latrines. In situations where the soil is rocky or the ground water is very close to the surface elevated platforms may be constructed.
- Water, Engineering and Development Centre technical notes for emergencies
- Rehabilitating water treatment works after an emergency [pdf]
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As a general rule, individual family latrines are preferred, are more socially acceptable and can be maintained by the family. If necessary, centralized toilet facilities can be built at the edge of a living quarter or camp section where each family has access to their own latrine. The area allowed for latrines should be big enough to dig new pits when the first ones are full. Latrines of all types need to be properly cleaned and maintained. Responsibilities for cleaning and maintaining latrines should be clearly spelled out. For collective latrines it may be necessary to hire someone to take care of them.
In all cases, good hygiene practices are very important for preventing disease transmission. Clean water should be provided in sufficient quantities to enable proper hygiene. Hands should be washed immediately after defecation, after handling babies' faeces, before preparing food and before eating.