Marie-Alixe Kima is a Haitian-American doctor who worked in Haiti after the earthquake, and during the cholera outbreak in 2011, when she helped in the effort to build a cholera treatment center with International Medical Corps in Ennery, near the epicenter of the outbreak. As an infectious disease specialist, Marie understands how challenging it is to improve public health when open defecation is the norm in so many rural areas. She has spent a great deal of time thinking about how poor infrastructure and the lack of sanitation continues to fuel the spread of cholera, and contributes to a long list of other serious health issues, ranging from chronic diarrheal disease and malnutrition, high rates of infant mortality, and even the personal safety of girls and women who don’t have access to a toilet. Marie contacted GiveLove over two years ago with the hope of bringing compost toilets to Tiburon, a small fishing village of 27,000 people located 367 km South West of Port-au-Prince.
Open defecation is very common in Tiburon, and a significant cause of water and environmental pollution in these coastal areas. Lucho Jean, our Country Program Director, recently visited communities to see local sanitation conditions first-hand, and to scout suitable cover material for the pilot toilets. All donations for the Tiburon project will go directly towards establishing this new pilot program.
GiveLove travelled to West Nile District with International Medical Outreach in April 2016 to kick off an ambitious skills training program at five primary schools. Steffan Thimmes and Samuel Autran Dourado spent two weeks working with local carpenters and teachers to retrofit some outdated pit latrines with compost toilets. East Africa is an interesting place to pilot compost toilets because there’s an abundant supply of dry, carbon cover material available. The kids at the schools were able to cut large amounts of grass for the compost bins in a matter of minutes. Sam will return with IMO to see how their project is being managed, and if local families are ready to volunteer for the household pilot. Sam’s Ph.D. research will explore the many social, economic, and cultural factors that determine whether improved sanitation is valued and adopted. Will Ugandans trade their pit latrines for compost toilets? Check in with us to follow this pilot.
GiveLove travelled back to Nicaragua to check in with Sweet Progress and their pilot project in Tipitapa. The EcoSaneadoras (EcoSan Girls) have been working hard with local families since September to promote EcoSan and provide affordable alternatives to crude pit latrines, and the practice of open defecation. While not very common in Central America, we found that many people went outside to defecate because the majority of households in Tipitapa can’t afford to hire people to dig a proper pit latrine. We were shocked to learn that it can cost a family $150 to dig a latrine – this is quite out of reach for families living on US$2.00 per day.
In just a few months since our training program launched, 25 families have learned how to manage their own compost toilets. By end of summer, 50 households will be participating in project. GiveLove was pleasantly surprised by the rapid adoption of the compost toilets in this community, and overall enthusiasm for learning practical composting skills. Our success in Tipitapa stresses the importance of working with strong local partners and involving communities to participate in the project on their own time frame. One women loved her toilet so much she asked to join Sweet Progress so she could help bring improved sanitation to more families in her community. Several women were overcome with tears and emotion when they talked with Alisa Keesey about how the toilets changed their lives. Stay tuned for more exciting news from this terrific and groundbreaking project.