Tag Archives: Flying toilets

Kenya, Nairobi: lack of sanitation leaves women sick and “prisoners in their homes”

Women and girls in Nairobi’s slums live under the constant threat of sexual violence, leaving them often too scared to leave their houses to use communal toilet and bathroom facilities, Amnesty International said in a new report released on 7 July 2010.

Amnesty International calls on the Kenyan government to enforce landlords’ obligations to construct toilets and bathrooms in the slums and settlements and provide assistance to structure owners who are unable to meet the costs of constructing toilets and bathrooms.

Insecurity and Indignity: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya [1] details how the failure of the government to incorporate the slums in urban plans and budgets has resulted in poor access to services like sanitation, which hits women in slums and informal settlements especially hard.

“Women in Nairobi’s settlements become prisoners in their own homes at night and some times well before it is dark,” said Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty Internationals East Africa researcher. “They need more privacy than men when going to the toilet or taking a bath and the inaccessibility of facilities make women vulnerable to rape, leaving them trapped in their own homes.

“The fact that they are unable to access even the limited communal toilet facilities also puts them at risk of illness.”

The situation is compounded by the lack of police presence in the slums and when women fall victim to violence they are unlikely to see justice done. Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and home to up to a million people, has no police post.

“I always underestimated the threat of violence,” said 19-year-old Amina of Mathare slum. “I would go to the latrine any time provided it was not too late. This was until about two months ago when I almost became a victim of rape.”

Amina was set upon by a group of four men while she walked to the latrine at 7pm. They hit her, undressed her and were about to rape her when her cries were heard and a group of residents came to save her. Although she knew one of the men involved in the assault, Amina did not go to the police as she feared reprisal attacks.

Unable to leave their one-roomed houses after dark, many women in informal settlements resort to ‘flying toilets’ – using plastic bags thrown from the home to dispose of waste.

Women also told Amnesty International how the poor sanitary conditions they live in – which include widespread disposal of human excreta in the open because of lack of adequate access to toilets – directly contribute to cases of poor health and to high health care costs.

Other women describe the humiliation of bathing in front of their relatives and children.

Even by day, public bathroom facilities are few and far between and invariably involve walking long distances. According to official figures, only 24 per cent of residents in Nairobi’s informal settlements have access to toilet facilities at household level.

Despite some positive features, Kenya’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) policies to meet the target on sanitation do not address the specific needs of women who face the threat of violence because they lack adequate sanitation.

They also do not address the lack of enforcement of regulations requiring owners and landlords to provide sanitation.

“There is a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums everyday” said Godfrey Odongo.

“Kenya’s national policies recognise the rights to sanitation and there are laws and standards in place. However, because of decades of failure to recognize slums and informal settlements, planning laws and regulations are not enforced in these areas.

“The lack of enforcement of these laws has ensured that landlords and structure owners in the slums can get away without providing any toilets or shower places for their tenants”

Lack of security of tenure also remains a long standing problem for tenants, despite a national land policy in place, removing any incentives that landlords or owners could have to ensure proper sanitation, and measures to increase security.

Amnesty says the government must also take immediate measures to improve security, lighting and policing and ensure that relevant government authorities coordinate their efforts to improve the water and sanitation situation in the settlements.

Amnesty representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Health, the City Council including the Town Clerk, and also some officials from the official regulator of water and sanitation services within Nairobi, the Athi Water Services Board.

In almost all of the meetings, it was agreed that there was little coordination between the relevant Ministries in the government to ensure that women in slums had access to water and sanitation.

Even though Amnesty recognised that the situation is complicated, representatives stressed that this is no reason to pass the buck from one Ministry to the next.

Some of the officials committed to asking the Office of the Prime Minister to bring together all of the relevant officials in an attempt to ensure that water and sanitation is provided for women in slums.

[1] Amnesty International (2010). Insecurity and indignity : women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. London, UK, Amnesty International Publications. Download full report

The report is one of the outputs of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign

Source: Amnesty International, 07 Jul 2010 ; Amy Agnew, Livewire, 07 Jul 2010

Uganda, Kampala: living on the edge in Namuwongo

On a tiny crumbling concrete floor sits a raised makeshift building with stairs of half-baked bricks. With the upper part screened off by boxes and plastic materials, this is what passes for a toilet in Namuwongo. This, according to Jamila Erika would be remarkable, if the toilets were plenty and enough for everyone.

“We have been robbed of our dignity,” says Erika, a resident of Kanyogoga. “Can you imagine women living without a toilet in the house? The most difficult thing is to get a toilet because they are too few and they are closed at night.”

A levy of sh100 [US$ 0.05] is also imposed on the users of the shared toilet, which Erika says pushes some people to use the bush instead. For those who are not bold enough to engage in open defecation, there is an option [“flying toilets”], which is equally degrading.

“With plenty of empty plastic bags, women who stay home when their husbands are away, help themselves in the plastic bags and keep them inside their houses. When the night comes, most women move out and discard the plastic bags,” says Erika.

In some of the tiny corridors, children answer the call of nature. There are heaps of faeces as one moves towards the swamp, making it difficult to walk there.

Swarms of houseflies hovering over the shacks feast on the heaps and later make millions of landings on the dirty plates nearby.


Ironically, it is rare for Namuwongo residents to wash their hands, a practice, which Sam Mutono of the World Bank says would cut down on incidents of water-borne diseases by up to 60%. “This practice has not been nurtured in Namuwongo,” says Mutono.

At the stand pipes, Erika says a jerrycan of water goes for sh50 [US$ 0.025] and that most women have only sh200 [US$ 0.10] by the husbands to run the home for the whole day. “Can you imagine hunting for food, water and firewood with just that money?” asks Erika. “For us, putting food on the table is a miracle and spending money on a shared toilet is an afterthought.”

In their tiny crumbling houses, the women have an extra burden of nursing children that frequently fall sick when water-borne diseases become so rampant. “I have to spend most of the money treating children in the rainy season,” says Erika. “This also means that I have to stay home much longer when they are sick.”

In times of hardship, it is women and children that suffer most. “The men care less because they step out of home very early and come back too late to listen to the problems their wives and children are facing,” says Erika. “It is common for men to run to other women in different parts of Kampala to escape responsibilities at home.”

Most patients during the three devastating outbreaks of cholera that spread through Kampala in 1997, 2007 and 2008 came from Namuwongo. InOctober 2009, cholera revisited Namuwongo and claimed three lives. One victim was a woman and the other two were children.

Too much unsafe water

Erika says when it rains, it floods and dirty water from the dreaded Nakivubo Channel seeps into the spring water wells contaminating the drinking water, a reliable source for those who cannot afford tap water.

“Most children miss classes because they are sick”, says Emily Hashaka, who works with an NGO. “We provide some medicine, but this is like a drop in the sea.”

The occupants of this slum count themselves lucky if the rainy season passes without cholera striking. The women sometimes sell household utensils in order to get money to buy medicine and food, according to Hashaka.

The LC1 chairperson for Kanyogoga, Emmanuel Masengere, says unsafe toilets were demolished since floods easily drain away the faeces into the houses. “This place is congested with people. The water table is high and the pit latrines are floating on water. So we constructed public latrines, which are safer, but too few.”

Asked whether their cries have been heard, Masengere replies: “Government officials only come here when there is a crisis or for votes. They never attend to issues affecting the population until it becomes a full-blown crisis.”

According to Charles Nuwagaba, a lecturer at Makerere University, half of the population in the slums in Kampala do not have access to toilets. “This”, Nuwagaba points out, “is a serious shortcoming given that about 60% of Kampala’s population lives in slums.”

Less than 10% of the two million residents of Kampala have toilets connected to the sewer line. The poor disposal of sewage has turned the Nakivubo waterway into an open sewer, which drains into Lake Victoria near Namuwongo.

To the National Environment Management Authority, the residents of Namuwongo are encroaching on the swamp. However, some of the encroachers have met their match in the floods and have had to vacate even before NEMA’s action to evict them.

“But this never lasts long. Other tenants keep on coming to rent the cheap houses in the dry season. The problem with Namuwongo is that the people who have constructed houses in the slums never stay there,” says Mutono.

The Government with the support of World Bank wanted to remove Namuwongo two decades ago, but it never happened. The owners of land sold it to their richer colleagues and the poor tenants crossed the Port Bell railway for cheaper housing deeper in the swampy settlement.


Mutono suggests technologies that can work better than the pit latrines as part of the way out. “Key to this is the exposure of women to new technologies such as ecological sanitation toilets that separate urine and faeces with an aim of making fertilisers,” says Mutono. “Once exposed, the women could teach many others. It could take a long time to accept such technologies, but women should be put at the centre.”

Mutono also recommends that NGOs with lessons on how to deal with sanitation in slums should be encouraged to share such knowledge. “As much as the Government tries to improve the situation, sanitation is a household responsibility,” says Mutono.

Mutono also says the landlords should be compelled to enforce the Public Health Act to create better sanitation conditions for people like Erika to lead better lives.

Source: New Vision / allAfrica.com, 20 Feb 2010.

Uganda: “Flying toilets” still not grounded

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, has led to increased use of polythene bags – known as “flying toilets” – for human waste disposal, local officials said.

The situation is worse in slums where infrastructure is basic. The few private and public facilities that exist charge up to USh200 [US10 cents] per use of a toilet.

“These areas are characterized by poor drainage systems and in the rainy season, the problem becomes worse,” said Bernard Luyiga, a councillor in Kampala district. “We have not invested enough in this area.

“Water and sanitation in Kivulu [slum in Makerere area, which he represents on the city council] are among the worst I have come across in my life. We tried to use Eco-san toilets… but the ‘flying toilet’ has remained rampant.”

Eco-san toilets use a natural biological process to break down human waste into a dehydrated, odourless, compost-like material, and save on water use. They were developed in South Africa in the 1990s.

It is difficult to tell how many facilities exist in Kivulu, but several pits latrines were visible, with dilapidated rusty iron sheets for walls, cracked floors and plastic roofs.

Contaminated springs

The situation is similar in other slums. About 6.2 percent of households in the city have no toilet facilities at all. Most, according to chief health inspector Mohammed Kirumira, are in the slums.

“Human waste is a problem to reckon with and many households lack a toilet, bathroom or kitchen,” Kirumira told IRIN.

According to the city council: “One study conducted by Chemiphar estimated that up to 90 percent of the natural springs in Kampala are contaminated, especially in the wet season, yet this remains a major source of water for the urban slum dwellers.”

Agatha Nambi, whose house stands near a drainage stream formed by an overflowing pit latrine in Kivulu, said: “It is very difficult to keep clean here. You observe cleanliness in your home, but other people just bring their mess to you and you have to give up… that is why our children keep getting sick.”

Justus Namenya, a casual labourer living nearby, added: “This is the rainy season, so this place is unbearable. [It] becomes filthy and sometimes water flows up to your house with all the dirt in it.”

Inadequate water

Only about 65 percent of Kampala’s two million residents have access to clean water. The rest use water that is sometimes contaminated by pit latrines.

According to Uganda’s Lands, Housing and Urban Development Ministry, the high cost of piped water has forced some city dwellers to rely on springs and wells.

“Over 50 percent of household occupants in Kampala are hospitalised every three months due to malaria while contamination of water by prevalence of micro-organisms is evident in the water sources of the city,” it said in a paper.

A recent survey by the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Centre found that average toilet to household ratio in Kampala slums was about 1:25.

“The children are told to use the school toilets so that when they come back home, they do not ask for money to go to the toilet,” the survey report, The plight of the urban poor and yet increased rural-urban migration, noted.

“Poor sanitation accounts for cholera outbreaks that are usually experienced in the slums of Kampala.”

Urban poverty

According to UN-HABITAT, 44 percent of Kampala’s population live in unplanned, underserviced slums. Informal settlements cover up to 25 percent of the city’s total area.

In informal settlements, only 17 percent of the population can access piped water. According to UN-HABITAT: “There is a high prevalence of sanitation-related diseases such as diarrhoea, worm infestations. Malaria is also endemic.”

Some 92.7 percent of Kampala’s population, the African Development Bank found, used on-site sanitation systems including septic tanks and pit latrines. However, emptier services, which are offered mainly by private sector on a cash-on-demand basis, were inadequate.

“As a result, effluent from latrines and septic tanks is often discharged into the environment untreated,” it added.

Government response

Uganda’s State Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Michael Kafabusa Werikhe, said the government was determined to address the appalling sanitation in the city.

Kampala authorities are trying to roll out a new sewage system by 2014, financed by the European Union, German government, African Development Bank and Ugandan government.

“Uganda is targeting to uplift the lives of at least one million people by the year 2020 through implementing the slum upgrading strategy and action plan,” Werikhe told IRIN on 7 January.

“We believe that slums are a development challenge which must be addressed to create harmony in our societies,” he added.

Source: IRIN, 08 Jan 2010

Burundi, Bujumbara: “Forgotten and unseen” on the edges of the city

At least 3,000 people, many of then returnees, have lived for years in Sabe, an informal settlement on the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura, with only two pit latrines between them, no clean water and no medical cards to help them access medical care. That they have survived for as long as 15 years in difficult conditions without help from the government or any aid agency attests to the fact that thousands of people can fall through the cracks in a country like Burundi, emerging from decades of civil war. […] With the March-April rainy season, several houses have collapsed, leaving residents homeless. Most of the homes are tiny, about 4 sqm, and often get flooded because they are in a swampy area.

Flying toilets

As the site has only two latrines, many residents relieve themselves in the bush during the day. “At night, we use plastic bags to dispose of our waste and in the morning, we throw them into the nearby bush,” Marc Ngendankumana, a Sabe resident said.

Photo: Judith Basutama/IRIN.  A woman fetches dirty water from a pond: Lack of clean water has increased the risk of waterborne diseases for the Sabe residents

Photo: Judith Basutama/IRIN. A woman fetches dirty water from a pond: Lack of clean water has increased the risk of waterborne diseases for the Sabe residents

Lack of clean water aggravates the situation, with residents using muddy and stagnant water for domestic purposes and even for drinking. Some of the residents hang around the roads with jerry cans, hoping to get water from passing motorists. Others struggle to fetch water from a nearby well used to water tree nurseries. As a result, residents are at risk of waterborne diseases. “Round worms and cholera are among the diseases threatening us,” Olive Bararusesa, one of the site leaders, said.

Immaculée Nahayo, Minister for National Solidarity, said on 4 April [2009] the ministry was willing to supply the Sabe residents with water but lacked water tanks. […] Minister Nahayo said assistance had been delayed because “the existence of the site was not known to us until recently”. However, she said the ministry recently distributed food after a team assessed residents’ needs. […] But in the meantime, the ministry is looking for funding to provide latrines, water and decent homes for the Sabe residents.

Source: IRIN, 10 Apr 2009

Tanzania, Arusha: Rotary Club Donates Toilet Facilities to Slum Dwellers

Residents of a slum area in Sakina, west of the municipality [of Arusha] who for a long time had no access to toilets are now proud owners of facilities built through the help of the Rotary Club of Arusha. The facilities […] will be under the supervision of Rotary Community Corps who will collect users fees for maintenance and cleanliness. The community corps is composed of residents of the slum who are beneficiaries of the toilets and bathrooms.

The facilities will serve 25 families which previously used plastic bags, famous by the name of Rambo, as toilets and subsequently dumped them near their houses or on roadsides. The facilities cost Tsh.2.3 million, an amount raised by members of the club.

Source: Edward Selasini, Arusha Times / allAfrica.com, 15 Feb 2009

Africa still stuck with its flying toilets

Although Kenya and other eastern African countries committed themselves to increased financing for sanitation at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002, the issue has not been prioritised in national budgets since then.

NAIROBI (IPS) – In 1925, Mahatma Gandhi remarked that “Sanitation is more important than political independence.

More than 80 years later, access to basic sanitation remains out of reach for 546 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

In East Africa, not one country is on track to meet Millennium Development Goal Seven, which aims to reduce by half the number of people without access to clean drinking water and decent sanitation by 2015.

Despite governments in the region being signatories to several declarations on improving sanitation, many East African households still lack access to flush toilets or pit latrines.

Open defecation is widespread, and `flying toilets`, where people defecate in plastic bags and throw them away at night are the rule rather than the exception in many informal settlements.

“This is the way we live. We do not have toilets, and no place to safely dispose of our waste,“ said Nicholas Ambeyo. “Because of this, and the lack of sufficient water, and the open sewers that run through our houses, we are at a risk of contracting diseases.”

Ambeyo spoke to IPS in his home in Kibera. With a population estimated to be close to a million people, Kibera is one of Africa`s largest slums. It is approximately seven kilometres from Nairobi city centre.

Read More – IPP Media

Flying toilets; throwing away the problem

What is a flying toilet? Any ideas? A modern design in aeroplanes? A portable toilet at concerts? Unfortunately, it’s nothing as mundane. A flying toilet is the name given to a plastic bag filled with excreta that is flung away after use. It’s causing big problems in some of the poorest areas in the world – the slums of Africa.

Imagine the scene – you’re at home enjoying an evening meal. Your family is sitting outside talking and eating. Then suddenly a plastic bag lands in the middle of the group. That’s exactly what’s happening in the Kibera slum in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

More – Radio Netherlands

Kenya – Kisumu health officials face sanitary crisis as toilets fly

Public health authorities in Kisumu now face a new sanitation crisis — flying toilets and careless disposal of human waste.

As the officials are still reeling from a fresh cholera outbreak, residents are emptying their toilets and septic tanks and dumping the waste near schools, churches and private plots, fuelling fears of yet another outbreak of cholera in the town.

The reason behind the predicament is lack of toilet exhauster facilities.

Those with no access to toilets use polythene paper as substitutes, which they later dump along roads and in open fields, in a fashion similar to the ‘flying toilets’ of Nairobi’s Kibera slums.

More – The Standard

Uganda: Kampala Slum Dwellers Turn to ‘Flying Toilets’

“Kampala’s population is soaring with many people living in slum areas. However, the law does not allow KCC, the major provider of sanitation services, to work with informal settlements, writes Frederick Womakuyu.

An overflowing pit latrine empties its contents into a worm-infested drainage channel in front of Catherine Namubiru’s home in Kisenyi, a Kampala slum. Less than 10 such latrines serve a population of 3,000 people living in this area.

The latrines are dilapidated with rusty iron sheets for walls, cracked floors and are roofed with plastic material. Little wonder that many inhabitants of “Mogadishu” in the heart of Kisenyi use ‘flying toilets‘ “.


While initiatives like the Kampala Urban Sanitation Project (KUSP) have lead to some improvement, “the problem of flying toilets will remain with us as long as the Government does not set up a clear policy to deal with slums”, says Fred Katabazi, the director of Tweyembe Development Association, an NGO that seeks to improve sanitation in slums. “People keep migrating from rural to urban areas,” he added.

Source: Frederick Womakuyu, New Vision (Kampala) / allAfrica.com, 06 Jul 2008

Kenya: Kibera’s Bio-Latrine

By Francis Ayieko, Nairobi

(…) Mary is a beneficiary of a new technology referred to as bio-latrine technology, which uses human waste and water to produce gas for lighting and domestic cooking – just like the biogas system. The gas is harvested from modern latrines that have been constructed in the slums with funding from the French government.

(…) DURING A RECENT official opening of one of the ablution blocks in Soweto-Kianda village in Kibera, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga hailed the project, saying it would bring to an end the shame of using “flying toilets” – disposing of human waste by wrapping it in polythene paper bags and throwing it away. (…)

Read all allafrica.com

The East African (Nairobi)