The United Nations has a list of what are called sustainable development goals. These goals are meant to give developing countries a timeline for reducing factors that keep people in poverty.
Building ventilated pit toilets helps Ghana in providing the availability of clean water and sanitation facilities for all citizens, which is goal 6 on this list. In Ghana, only 15 percent of people have access to adequate sanitation facilities, which falls short of sustainable development goal 6.
A ventilated pit toilet is similar in design to standard pit toilets common in many areas of the world. It includes the addition of a ventilation pipe, which allows for the extra flow of fresh air.
This decreases unpleasant odors and deters insects as well. Additionally, flies and other bugs are attracted to the light at the top of the ventilation pipe. And the toilets can easily be equipped with a bug screen that kills them when they go toward the top of the pipe.
As with normal pit toilets, ventilated pit toilets do not require water to function. In water-scarce areas, this is a big advantage as compared to flush toilets. While the ventilation pipe requires more material and increases the cost slightly, it is still a very low-cost sanitation solution with many benefits over a standard pit toilet.
One school in Ghana’s Volta region never had a toilet in its 25 years of existence. Students with toilets in their homes must make due throughout the school day. Less fortunate students who do not have toilets at home cannot rely on utilizing their school’s sanitation methods.
In addition to inconveniencing students and making them uncomfortable, the lack of toilets regularly hinders learning. Due to the absence of designated toilets, students used outdoor areas of the school to relieve themselves.
The odors under the hot sun became so unbearable that they distract the teachers and students from focusing on academics. The nearest public restroom was a 15-minute walk from the school.
When students would ask to go use it, they would miss at least a half hour of class time. Many other times, they would use the restroom as an excuse to leave school and then never return.
For students or teachers facing stomach problems or other sicknesses, any toilets in the surrounding neighborhood are likely to be unclean as well as inconvenient. Often times, students select to stay home missing valuable school time.
Apart from the obvious sanitary benefits of these ventilated pit toilets, the positive impact extends beyond sanitation. They provide Ghana’s younger citizens with a learning opportunity outside of the classroom.
The improved facilities allow them to learn more about hygiene and sanitation so that they can share that knowledge with their families in addition to the rest of the community. Such progress brings Ghana even closer to achieving its sustainable development goals.
– Nathaniel Siegel