A toilet. Washroom. WC. Lavatory. Loo. Latrine. We have numerous names for this little room we consider an absolute necessity. It's assumed there will always be one handy, but the toilet is in fact a foreign concept in many remote areas of the world, including parts of South Sudan.
Tearfund and World Relief Canada are trying to change that in the county of Uror where they run water, sanitation, and hygiene projects (WASH) to reduce disease and death. The majority of households in the county do not have latrines, or even understand why they should.
It's a battle to change thousands of years of culture and behaviour in the hope of bringing improved health outcomes and life-long change.
How to build a latrine
The philosophy behind latrine construction has changed over the years. Instead of helping to build household latrines with imported materials, communities are being trained to build one using available materials.
Tearfund originally purchased 150 latrine-digging kits in 2014, one between six households, reaching a total of 1800 individuals. The tools used to construct the toilets are passed on as each latrine is completed.
MAF Pilot Reinier Kwantes flew 60 new latrine-digging kits for the project to the small airstrip at Motot that included pick-axes, shovels, crowbars, metal buckets, and rope. Few of these tools would be available or affordable in Uror County.
Building a well-functioning and stable latrine is no easy task in a land of clay soil that retains water, and massive yearly flooding. New ideas on how to construct the latrines means the design is continually being improved and modified, but even these methods won't guarantee the latrine will survive when the ground becomes over-saturated with rainwater, although it helps.
A proud owner
Nyapuot, a 25-year-old mother of three, knelt on the ground in front of an immaculate painted mud hut in the village of Motot, grinding seeds into a paste. She paused her work to show off their prized possession: the latrine. It looked exactly like a miniature hut with mud walls, a perfectly pointed thatched roof, and a locked wooden door, surrounded by thorny branches for a fence.
Nyapuot was in one of the first groups in Motot to received hygiene and sanitation training from Tearfund in 2014. Convinced of its value, Nyapuot and her husband built the latrine and are so protective of it that they keep it locked when not in use to keep flies out and neighbouring children from using it for play.
She has trained her children how to keep it clean through sweeping and disinfecting it with salt and ashes, a traditional way of repelling flies. Her children know to wash their hands after every use, with ashes when soap is not available.
'Tearfund taught me how to wash utensils, how to keep the toilet clean, how to transfer water to prevent contamination. I never did these things before the training,' Nyapuot said, explaining that the family doesn't get diarrhoea as often as they used to.
"The children are healthier. We don't defecate in the open bush now. We use the latrine. I'm encouraging the neighbours to build a toilet in order to prevent diarrhoea. Tearfund training helped us a lot."
2 flights every week
MAF has supported Tearfund’s work for many years in South Sudan. Every Monday and Wednesday, MAF carries staff, WASH and nutrition supplies to the Motot airstrip where Tearfund is based.
The latrine training is just one part of Tearfund's WASH project. Also included is the rehabilitation of bore-holes, water testing, distribution of pump mechanic toolkits, refresher training for pump mechanics, community hygiene and sanitation training, and Water User Committee training.
The conflict brought a massive influx of displaced people into Uror County. Boreholes broke down with over-used, and sanitation and hygiene became an urgent issue as new people settled in the county in temporary conditions.
The roads into Uror County from Juba have been closed because they cross the frontline between government and opposition troops, making Tearfund rely entirely on air transportation to and from the project area for supplies that can fit in a plane.
'Because of the crisis that happened in December 2013,' Kimbo Korsuk of Tearfund says, 'we had a very high demand of transportation material, because we couldn't transport any materials by road. All along, MAF has been supporting us. We are very appreciative.'
Tearfund is committed to continue their support of the people of Uror County as best they can, working for positive change in spite of the many challenges. And MAF will partner with them for as long as it takes.
'We had a very high demand of transportation material, because we couldn't transport any materials by road. All along, MAF has been supporting us. We are very appreciative.'
Kimbo Korsuk, WASH Project Officer, Tearfund