Hesperian Health Guides

Sanitation for Emergencies

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 7: Building Toilets > Sanitation for Emergencies

More and more, large numbers of people are forced to live in emergency situations due to wars, natural disasters, and other reasons for displacement. In emergency settlements such as refugee camps, sanitation is a first priority.

Simple trench latrine

A man squats to defecate in a trench. Simple trenches can be made quickly using local materials. One enclosed trench for each family, or for a small group of families, will allow for the most comfort.

Trench latrines should be built downhill and away from water sources, but close enough to family settlements so people do not have to walk long distances to use them.

A trench latrine has shelves for the feet to make it easier to use than a simple trench. The trench latrine should be as deep as possible (up to 2 meters), but can be shallow if little labor is available for digging. Each user covers his or her feces with a small amount of soil. When the trench is close to full, fill it completely with soil. Plants and trees will benefit from the rich soil.

A portable shelter can be built over the trench to give privacy and to protect users from rain. Screens can be made from cloth, reeds, or whatever materials are available. Special care should be taken to make sure latrines are private and safe for women and children.

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Tippy tap for washing hands
Top can be
covered from rain
Light frame of wood or plastic pipe
for privacy
Wood foot rests and floor plates