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Water & Sanitation

12 crazy examples of what happens to unused toilets

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

This may seem obvious, but relieving yourself in the open isn't a good idea. 

Even if you aren’t familiar with all the technicalities of the issue, it makes sense that access to clean toilet facilities is closely related to the health, and therefore the wealth, of a community.

For millions of people all over the world however, open defecation is a fact of life.

But as much as we may talk about “access”, just having a toilet is not enough. If there isn’t someone who can maintain the facilities, they will fall apart. If no one has effectively communicated why toilets are needed, they will go unused. If facilities haven’t been built to suit the community, they won’t work out. But how often do toilets, built with the best intentions, end up abandoned and unused? 

These 12 pictures are a stunning illustration of how difficult it has been to tackle the problem of open defecation:

1.) Kyankwanzi Health Centre in Uganda 

Flickr: CEHURD CEHURD

This pit latrine has fallen apart without maintenance. It's now in unusable condition. 

2.) Kisoro, Uganda

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

This toilet was only partially built. Now it's being used as a vegetable peeling bin.

3. ) Comandancia, Peru

Flickr: D-Lab

This toilet was installed by a government program. It's missing some pretty important parts. 

4.) Madre Selva, Peru

Flickr: D-Lab

Nobody uses this toilet.

5.) Surite district, Peru

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

This is another toilet bowl that’s been unused since it was built.

6.) Paje, Botswana

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

A UDDT toilet is considered an upgrade from a pit latrine because it separates urine from solid waste, allowing solid waste to dry. Dried waste is easier and safer to handle; families can even use it to fertilize crops. This abandoned UDDT toilet is next to the pit latrine the family uses instead. The toilet was broken before it was even installed. 

7.) Paje, Botswana

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

 This UDDT is being used for storage. The owner never used it because she was uncomfortable with removing the feces from the unit.

8.) Kitchanga, DR Congo

Flickr: Julien Harneis

This rainwater barrel is part of larger latrine facility originally built for a kindergarten. The facilities don't work and the latrines haven't been maintained. 

9.) Gajapati district, India

Flickr: indiawaterportal.org

Over 450 facilities were built in Gajapati district, India. None are being used. Local women explained that a lack of water made the toilets unusable, though cultural issues were also at play. Many Indian citizens believe that open defecation is more hygienic than using toilets. 

10.) Kalibari, Bangladesh 

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

This toilet hasn't been maintained and is now unusable. 

11.) Western Kenya 

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

This UDDT was downgraded to a pit latrine when the husband connected the containers holding liquid and solid waste. The unit was installed when only the wife was home, so when her husband came home he assumed she had misunderstood how she was told to use it. Gender roles need to be considered when trying to effectively provide sanitation. 

12.) South Nyanza, Kenya

Flickr: SuSanA Secretariat

On a positive note, this single vault UDDT has been abandoned-but for a good reason This community had double vaulted UDDTs installed. Double vaults allows users to alternate solid waste containers which lets the waste dry out more throughly. Users liked that the new toilet made composting easier. Upgrade!

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Michelle Kennedy