A version of this article was first published in the WSSCC/UN Women Joint Programme on Gender, Hygiene and Sanitation Newsletter in December 2016. Together with UN Women, WSSCC is implementing a programme in West and Central Africa, aimed at changing policies and behaviour to improve women and girls’ access to water and sanitation as their basic human rights.
A field mission by the joint programme across various regions in Senegal last July, shows the conditions and maintenance of sanitation infrastructures which are still not accommodating Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).
The field mission led by Massiré Karé, the programme’s hygiene, sanitation and social engineering consultant was set to collect data in order to make proposals for a better integration of MHM into sanitation projects. It was also aimed at proposing technical and practical solutions that can be included in the new policy of the Government of Senegal and its existing manuals.
The expert looked at schools, health facilities, markets and other public places in 13 municipalities and have visited a total of 25 public institutions and spaces. More than half of the schools in the Kédougou region have no latrines. In many schools where there are toilets in most cases it consists of only one latrine.
In other regions, although the situation seems to be better than Kédougou, efforts still need to be made to ensure that all pupils have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Moreover, gender-sensitivity and the accommodation of MHM is still far from reality in all these sanitation facilities.
At all visited infrastructures the common problem was the low and inadequate frequency of cleaning facilities. For schools it stood at once or sometimes twice a week and for health structures one time per day. There is also a lack of cleaning products because there is no budget allocated.
The lack of maintenance of toilets leads to their non-use by the pupils especially girls and contributes to a loss of school hours. For markets and public places, the situation of sanitation infrastructures is worse often leading to the non-use of latrines and to open defecation. “There needs to be an understanding that sanitation is about dignity,” said Karé, who adds in his observations, that none of the infrastructures accommodate MHM. However, some efforts have been made by the Government of Senegal to take into account persons with reduced mobility (with ramps, chairs in one of latrines).
Recommendations to improve the conditions of sanitation infrastructures include safe water supply points, handwashing points and sustainable sanitation facilities in all schools and other public places. In addition, proper design of structures should include an operating and maintenance plan to avoid the rapid deterioration of the installation, this plan needs to be validated before construction. It should also identify who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the facility with the associated costs. The team has proposed essential criteria to consider for sanitation infrastructures. In schools, children should feel safe when using the toilet and should have their privacy with complete hand washing devices with soap installed near the toilet.
Infiltration pit toilets should be located downstream from a source and at least 20-30 meters from wells and water sources. For children in wheelchairs or on crutches installations must be equipped with ramps, wider doors, extra space in the cabins, handles and switches at good height and with toilet seats of adequate size. Toilets must be easy to keep clean to encourage use and should not present a health hazard, in addition they must be equipped with a system to discard sanitary towels and other feminine hygiene products, give women the privacy necessary to wash and dry their sanitary towels.
For health facilities, toilets should be designed according to the technical and financial means available and be to local cultural and social requirements to meet the needs of users of all ages and categories.
There should be no risk in using them, they should be of easy access and a water source for handwashing should be located near the toilet. The cleanliness and proper functioning of the toilets has to be ensured at all times by a cleaning and maintenance service.
The results of this mission, organized in partnership with the Government of Senegal, were taken into account, particularly in the formulation of recommendations. With a view to achieving the objectives of sustainable development, particularly regarding target 6.2, the implementation of these recommendations has started and results are expected in the coming months at local and national level.
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The Netherland’s Senior Policy Officer for WASH raises important issues surrounding MHM
Drawing your attention to the programmes’ documentation on sanitation behaviour practices in Senegal