“Rapid latrines” designed for children are much needed

By William Carter Senior Officer, Water, Sanitation and Emergency Health Unit, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva

Toilets are not the easiest things to talk about, even if the lack of toilets is one of the world's most critical public health concerns. Yet, for all the squeamishness that surrounds it, this is an issue we can all understand through personal experience. Although most people in the developed world have probably never gone without clean drinking water, we have all had a problem finding a toilet at some time. Think about a visit to an unfamiliar city, getting stuck in traffic, or seeing the queue for the toilets at a sporting event. Unfortunately, for billions of people around the world life without a clean and accessible toilet is a daily fact of life. This is a health issue, universal sanitation would save millions of lives, but is also an issue of human dignity.

When, not if, the world achieves universal sanitation coverage we will see gains in human health and dignity that no other intervention can provide. While this accomplishment is inevitable, current progress towards the goal is unacceptable. Sanitation is everybody's business; from individuals, families and communities to government leaders and the broader international community. Discussion is only the first step. Delivery of sanitation takes effort, time and resources and needs at least as much of these three, probably more, than water supply currently receives. To this end, the IFRC is calling on donors to balance funding between sanitation and water programmes by 2015.

We currently stockpile and deploy 'rapid latrines' as part of our water and sanitation emergency response equipment packages.  However, these are all designed for able body adults and are not customized for children, the disabled or the elderly. Toilets will never be one-size fits all. We need to remember that different people in a society have different needs. This is particularly important with children. A rapidly deployable toilet that children find welcoming is a much needed innovation.

The innovative design from ICONO provides, as far as I can see, the most needed improvements of "rapid latrines" that we are looking for: it is safe and comfortable for children, it can easily be fitted for disabled with a temporary stool - and on top of that it is much easier to keep clean than the present designs of latrines.