Are burial or disposal with garbage safe forms of child faeces disposal? An expert consultation. Waterlines, July 2015.
The importance of safe handling and disposal of child faeces given its potential role in disease transmission are increasingly recognized. Household surveys demonstrate that the burying of child faeces (‘dig-and-bury’) is common in several countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South-east Asia. Disposal with garbage is widely practised in middle- and high-income countries and is becoming increasingly common in urban areas of low-income countries.
The safety of these two approaches is difficult to assess given the limited evidence available and we therefore sought the opinion of experts in the field of sanitation to support advocacy around the topic. We report the findings of an anonymous expert (Delphi) consultation on the safety of these two child faeces disposal methods. There was almost unanimous agreement these should be considered neither safe nor improved.
A range of arguments was provided to support this position, including proximity of solid waste and burial sites to the home and children’s play areas and that neither practice would be acceptable for adults. The consultation also highlighted gaps in the current evidence base that should be addressed to gain a fuller insight into the risks involved in these two forms of sanitation with a view to providing both programmatic and normative guidance.
In particular further work is needed to assess the potential for exposure to faecal matter in solid waste in low- and middle-income countries and to elucidate the predominant practices of child faeces burial including proximity to the home or infant play areas as well as depth of burial.