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IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Decline in pit toilet use

MARIA BRADSHAW, [email protected]

IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Decline in pit toilet use

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THERE HAS BEEN a significant decline in the use of pit toilets in Barbados.

A 2000 census had estimated that there were about 4 000 dry pits still in use but current calculations suggest that the figure may be half that.

As a result, the Ministry of Health’s chief environmental health officer, Ronald Chapman, said the ministry was now examining the future of its facility at Lazaretto, Black Rock, St Michael that builds complete toilet pits for the public.

“We are looking at restructuring that department because in recent times the building of toilet pits has declined,” he said.

That facility constructs housing, slabs, risers and covers which are sold for between $35 and $100. They also provide assistance in digging holes for the toilets.

A health official said the users were mainly squatters, people who were living in water zone areas or were renting houses from landlords who did not want them to build water-borne facilities.

He said the Ministry of Health was obligated under the law to ensure that users had sanitary facilities and that was why a unit was created to provide a complete system for pit latrines.

Some of the areas where toilet pits were still heavily in use include City districts such as Greenfields, Cats Castle and New Orleans as well as the squatters’ village at Rock Hall, St Philip.

“The Ministry of Health is obligated to do all in its power to prevent outbreaks of gastroenteritis, worms, diarrhoea and other such diseases which could come about through the use of poor sanitary conditions,” he said, adding that health officials paid regular visits and inspections to people who still used toilet pits.

As to the significant decline in toilet pits, Chapman said this could be attributed to improvements in road access that allowed water to reach a wider segment of the population.

In the Barbados Country Assessment Living Conditions 2010, it was reported that 32.1 per cent of households still used pit latrines in 1990.

“There has subsequently been a significant downward trend where this was 22.0 per cent in 1997, 16.5 per cent in 2000 and 3.8 per cent in 2010,” the report said.

“This downward trend has been accompanied by an upward trend for water closets (WCs) where this increased from 74.1 per cent in 1997 to 81.8 per cent in 2000 and 95.4 per cent in 2010.

“However, although there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of households using pit latrines, the distribution indicates this is still an issue in the Greater Bridgetown and South East Strata with 50 per cent of the households still using pit latrines located in these areas: 26.1 per cent of households using pit latrines are in Greater Bridgetown with 23.9 per cent in the South East. The Outer Urban Strata only accounted for 3.3 per cent of households with pit latrines,” the report stated.

Meanwhile, one of the most recent recipients of a toilet pit from the Lazaretto facility is Ann Browne of Dash Valley St George, who was highlighted in this column last month pleading for Government to relocate her family so that they could finally enjoy the use of water-borne facilities.

The Browne family, who have been living on the land for over 50 years, have never had a flushing toilet because the land is in a water zone area. Last month she expressed concern that her pit was full and it was burdensome for her 91-year-old mother to use.

While health officials responded quickly to the family, Browne said it did not solve their problems as she wanted her elderly mother to be able to enjoy the comforts of “decent” living before she passed away. (MB)