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Excreta disposal for physically vulnerable people in emergencies

All kinds of people experience a variety of physical difficulties, which can make it difficult to use standard designs of latrines. For example, elderly men and women with weak legs may struggle to squat or rise from the squatting position when using a standard latrine, and there may be nothing for a pregnant woman, or a person with a high fever to hold onto for balance as they use the latrine. There may not be enough space for a mother to enter the latrine cubicle to help her child or a dependant family member, and some people may be bedridden, for example, in a hospital situation.

Effective sanitation in emergencies is important for human health but also for human dignity, and this should be a right for all people, whatever their abilities or limitations. In humanitarian situations there may also be increased numbers of people with physical disabilities, for example, from injuries or trauma caused by an earthquake or a tsunami, or as the result of conflict or unexploded landmines and ordinance.

With quite simple modifications, latrines can be made user-friendly for physically vulnerable people. This Technical Brief highlights good practice in this area. It has drawn its information from OXFAM good practice in the field, including discussions with users who have disabilities, and from WEDC research ‘Water and Sanitation for Disabled People and Other Vulnerable Groups’ (Jones and Reed, 2005).