21.2 Factors affecting the use of latrines and handwashing facilities
The possession of an improved latrine, on its own, will not halt the transmission of faeco-orally transmitted diseases among the people of your community. For this to have an impact on health, the people have to use their latrines and handwashing facilities effectively.
What factors do you think affect the utilisation of latrines in your community?
There are several possible answers including the bad smell of a latrine, lack of privacy if the shelter is inadequate, childhood habits that are hard to break and many more.
The factors will vary from place to place depending on the local context. Behavioural, demographic, geographic, climatic, social, cultural and economic reasons can deter families from using latrines. For example, elderly or uneducated people in rural areas may find it difficult to get used to new technologies and may resist the adoption of new behaviours. In some local cultures, people may not want to share latrines with others; for example, women may not want to share the same facility as their father-in-law and there are some cultural practices that inhibit the use of one latrine by both the husband and wife. Children’s faeces are often mistakenly considered not to be a potential health hazard and it may be considered unimportant for children to use the latrine. Household members may be discouraged from using the latrine at night because of the fear that ‘evil’ or ‘devils’ inhabit the latrine during that time. Another factor is the misconception that prevails among some farmers that using the ‘cat-system’ (i.e. burying excreta or leaving it open in a field) will improve the soil condition.
There are other more practical reasons such as the use of inappropriate materials for latrine construction, the collapse of latrines due to termites, flooding problems or loose soil conditions, and the need for frequent maintenance.
You need to identify the factors affecting the use of latrines that are relevant in your community. Once these are defined, then you can discuss them in a transparent way. Open discussion of these issues within the community will ease the construction and use of latrines.