14.4.3 Handwashing and hygiene

The Sphere Handbook also specifies standards for handwashing facilities close to latrines. The standard states: ‘Users should have the means to wash their hands with soap or an alternative (such as ash) after using toilets, after cleaning the bottom of a child who has been defecating, and before eating and preparing food. There should be a constant source of water near the toilet for this purpose.’ (Sphere Project, 2011).

  • List at least five critical times for handwashing in an emergency?

  • The critical times for handwashing in an emergency are mostly the same as they would be normally and include:

    • after using the toilet (or disposing of human or animal faeces)
    • after cleaning a child’s bottom and disposing of the faeces
    • before preparing or handling food
    • before eating
    • before feeding a child
    • after contact with contaminated surfaces.

    There is an addition to this list which may arise in an emergency which is to always wash hands after touching dead bodies.

Sphere also sets a standard on the minimum hygiene items to be provided in an emergency (Table 14.3). Often, displaced people will have brought very little with them and only have what they can carry. Personal items such as hygiene materials may get left behind so people will be dependent on replacements being available.

Table 14.3 Sphere guidance on basic minimum hygiene items for emergencies. (Sphere Project, 2011)
10–20 litre capacity container for transporting waterOne per household
10–20 litre capacity container for storing waterOne per household
250 g bathing soapOne per person per month
200 g laundry soapOne per person per month
Suitable materials for menstrual hygiene (e.g. washable cotton cloth)One per woman
  • Outline in a sentence or two how the approach to sanitation differs in an emergency to a normal sanitation situation.

  • Sanitation facilities will need to cope with a huge concentration of people in a small area with very limited or no resources. The people may not be used to community latrines. They will be stressed, possibly malnourished, and be more likely to be ill or injured than in normal conditions.

14.4.2 Latrine provision and excreta disposal

14.4.4 Solid waste management in emergencies