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More than just a latrine 

October 7, 2015

The first thing on the agenda Monday morning was building latrines. Martha shared with us at orientation how important they were to improve the health situation in the village. No matter what addition was requested on someone’s house, whether floor, eco-oven, or room addition, if they didn’t already have a latrine they had to build that first.

But first a stop at the hardware store to pick up supplies.

Martha shared that when a family doesn’t have a latrine, they simply go outside and use the nearest bush. When it rains, the waste gets washed downhill into the river where they bathe and draw water for drinking. Combine the two together, and people get sick. The river of sustenance and life becomes a river of disease and death.

Bob helping sift sand from the river to get all the rocks out before mixing cement.

However when it doesn’t rain, those free range chickens find the soiled bush and eat the human waste. The chickens get diseases, and when the chickens are cooked and eaten, people get sick. Martha explained “the chickens get a large ball in them (a tumor maybe?) and if you don’t cook the chicken enough that ball gets eaten and goes straight to your brain.” In other words, all the humor in Martha’s “you can eat it, but you will die” just went right out the window when we realize that building latrines isn’t just about convenience and cleanliness, it’s about life and death. Suddenly I go back to working on latrines with a lot more purpose in the hopes that our presence and supplies not only help improve the health in their village, it might even be saving lives.

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