…as M25 million project is launched in Maseru
A death trap.
That was how ‘Mathatohatsi Monyatsi this week described her household toilet situated in what looked like an abandoned corner of her residence.
Ms Monyatsi lives with her husband and one-year-old daughter in Ha-Mabote — one of the highly populated settlements of Maseru.
Whenever nature calls, the Monyatsi family reluctantly visits the ramshackle pit-latrine fashioned out of rusty iron-sheets and supported by rotting timber.
“My greatest fear is that one day, the sitting area is going to collapse while I am helping myself,” Ms Monyatsi on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times as she gestured at the rickety, makeshift lavatory.
It is clear why Ms Monyatsi has developed such a phobia — she can easily see the dugout through the yawning gaps between the floor-timber, invoking revolting images of her swimming in the excrement below.
On the outer side of the toilet, the larger part of the pit is covered with iron-sheets and hard paperboards, posing yet more danger even to passersby.
Although the toilet is located about 10 metres from the main house, the stench emanating from the facility pervades the whole courtyard and makes it virtually impossible for anyone to sit outside the residence.
The flies sound happy as they buzz their way from the pit-latrine to Ms Monyatsi’s home and also her neighbours’ residences.
According to Ms Monyatsi, the situation is particularly terrible during the rainy season.
“We inherited this house from my husband’s parents. This toilet was built more than 30 years ago and although it has surpassed its life-span, it is not yet full.
“Each time I am in the toilet, I can’t wait to get out because it’s not safe. This door does not close properly and so I have to put a stone behind it to get some privacy.
“The roof leaks when it rains and the whole structure shakes, giving me the jitters,” Ms Monyatsi said.
However, the fact that a toilet constructed more than three decades ago has not filled up yet, should cause alarm in the community.
According to sanitation experts at Technologies for Economic Development (TED) — a Maseru-based non-governmental organisation whose activities include urban and rural sanitation — unsecured, ventilated pit-latrines allow pathogens or germs to travel more than 900 metres and could survive and spread diseases for seven years.
And yet Ms Monyatsi does not seem to understand how toilets such as her family’s, could be a health hazard particularly considering Maseru’s source of water, Maqalika Dam, lies just below Ha-Mabote.
“We have no money to build a new toilet. Both me and my husband are not employed.
“I pray that after his attachment (at a certain firm in Mokhotlong) in a few weeks time, he would get a job.”
Yet similar, dilapidated toilets are a common sight in Ha-Mabote and other settlements in the capital Maseru.
Hundreds of families, particularly those living in unplanned settlements of the city, have no toilets and bathrooms and bath inside their homes while standing in small washbowls.
Although this week’s visit to Ha-Mabote showed there is a good number of families who value proper ablution facilities, many however, appeared to have given up on maintaining their amenities.
The Lesotho Times discovered in most cases, poverty was the major reason for the appalling state of the sanitary facilities, while poor planning of the settlements and the mountainous topography that characterises Maseru, are also to blame.
The haphazard nature of the residential areas and their elevation have made it impossible for some households to be connected to the Water and Sewerage Company’s (WASCO) waste-water reticulation system.
However, the Lesotho Times also discovered in other cases, it was a matter of households misplacing their priorities regarding the provision of lavatories, or greedy landlords renting out their properties to several families, who are then made to share a single toilet.
“Nine families comprising of 42 people are staying here and we all use this small toilet.
“It is too close to my flat; it’s not private and smells badly. We don’t know why the rent we are paying here does not go towards constructing proper toilets,” ‘Matšeliso Mahaso, a mother-of-three, said during Tuesday’s visit to Ha-Mabote.
Khathatso Mokebe, also from Ha-Mabote, said he was not happy with his toilet, which he constructed in 2010.
“It’s almost full because the pit is just two metres deep. I would have wanted to have a bathroom as well, since my family takes their bath in the bedroom but because I am unemployed, I cannot afford it,” Mr Mokebe said, indicating the family’s tiny, iron-sheet latrine.
However, Mr Mokebe’s spirits were high on this particular day after attending the previous day’s launch of the baseline assessment survey that would determine the sanitation situation in the area and how many households were in need of toilets.
“We hear the powers-that-be have remembered us this time around and are going to donate better toilets to the poor before the end of this year,” Mr Mokebe said.
WASCO, through TED, unveiled the baseline assessment survey to mark the beginning of the On-Site Sanitation Facilities Programme.
This two-year programme was initiated by WASCO under its Maseru Waste Water Project, and followed revelations there are still many city households without in-house potable water and waste-water plumbing systems.
Implementation of the on-site sanitation facilities would complement WASCO’s recently completed sewer network.
The programme, funded to the tune of M25 million by the Lesotho government, European Investment Bank and European Union Water Facility, would provide environment-friendly on-site precast Amalooloo Dry Sanitation System toilets to 3 100 households located under the four zones of the WASCO service areas (Maseru North, Central, South and South East.)
To ensure the inclusion of poor households that cannot afford the M5 000 charged for the construction of each toilet, WASCO will liaise with traditional chiefs and the Ministry of Social Development to identify needy families.
Another model would ensure universal access to make it easy and friendly to people with disabilities.
WASCO spokesperson, Lineo Moqasa, said the baseline assessment, which started in Ha-Mabote and Khubetsoana this week, would be replicated in all zones.
Already 44 enumerators and other technical people have been engaged to undertake the exercise.
This would be followed by the construction and rehabilitation of sanitation facilities before the end of the year.
“This door-to-door survey will help us understand the water and sanitation situation in Maseru urban.
“Through TED, we will be able to know the type of toilets and socio-economic characteristics of the targeted population.
“We would like all households that have been struggling to maintain their dignity for many years, to benefit.
“This initiative will also help create demand for improved sanitation systems in order to promote human dignity and good health.
“The community mobilisation will help us to change people’s behaviour towards sanitation issues and in this area we will collaborate with environmental health assistants, social development workers, community councils and traditional leaders.”
Ms Moqasa further said beneficiaries would be divided into three groups of poor households that cannot afford the toilets, those who will pay through WASCO’s credit schemes and those that can afford cash payments.
“The inclusive nature of this programme will help us tackle many health-related concerns, particularly in the many unplanned settlements where we have many households who cannot afford decent toilets,” Ms Moqasa said.
Mahlapane Lekometsa of TED said in view of the health challenges caused by poor sanitation, the programme will seek to educate residents on the importance of taking responsibility for their own waste.
“Where there is no waste water infrastructure, residents should be supported to build proper toilets to ensure a healthy environment and also help save lives.
“In reticulated areas, residents should also value the costly infrastructure and ensure they don’t dump in the toilet, what should not be there, to prevent blockages,” Ms Lekometsa said.
According to Ms Lekometsa, the Amalooloo toilets would go a long way to improve the wellbeing of families.
“These facilities have water-tight chambers, which can be folded to make it easy for children to use. They also have safe doors, and hand-washing devices,” she said.
Households could also have their toilets upgraded with rainwater harvesting for hand-washing and a solar panel for light in the cabin.
“Amalooloo can also be transformed into a flush-toilet and be connected to WASCO’s water and sewer systems.”
Ms Lekometsa further said because the new toilet models are made in such a way that they cannot allow germ-leakages, they will help to prevent groundwater and surface water pollution.
“The VIP toilets that are common in many of the targeted areas, combine solid matter and urine, which is not the case with this new model.
“The old type is also made in such a way that the underneath lining is not done properly to make sure they don’t fill-up quickly, and this is what also causes pollution and the spread of diseases.”
Because the Amalooloo toilet separates urine from the solid matter, it provides technology that allows residents to irrigate and fertilise their gardens and improve nutrition and food security.
Urine contains nutrients that help stimulate crop-growth while the solid matter can be composited and used as biofuel.