URL: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/04/lawrence_carey_healy_leadership.html


Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Jonathan Rice discusses solutions to help reach Millenium Development Goal 4.


The news article “Carey Healy leads by aiming his Engineers Without Borders chapter at a serious childhood killer” reported by The Syracuse Post-Standard on April 27, 2014 discusses a latrine project being started by the Syracuse professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders to build new improved latrines for six schools in a school district in the Palajunoj Valley of Guatemala near the city of Xela. In the article Stan Linhorst states that there isn’t reliable water at the village and that there is little access to improved latrines at the schools there which is a reflection of how 89% and 72% of rural residents in Guatemala have access to improved water sources and improved sanitation respectively (The World Bank Group). The improved latrines will help improved sanitation and reduce incidence of childhood diarrhea by providing improved sanitation for defecation in addition to hand-washing stations to prevent the spread of disease. While they have not chosen any design choices yet, Lawrence Healy noted three different potential designs, including a ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, a composting toilet, and a pour flush toilet. The VIP latrine would likely be the most culturally appropriate choice as it would be the most similar in terms of use and maintenance as the current basic latrines that the schools have. Additionally, it would also be the most appropriate in terms of cost and maintenance as it would likely cost the least out of any of the improved latrine designs (including composting, pour-flush, and VIP latrines) and be the easiest to maintain. Overall the design is fairly simple, consisting of a latrine pit with a pipe that ventilates noxious gases and traps flies to prevent them from spreading disease.


Improved latrines at a school such as this project can help reduce child mortality (Millennium Development Goal #4); 88% of all diarrhea is caused by unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene (Mihelcic, 2009) which improved latrines will help fix by providing a sanitary place for defecation in addition to hand washing stations that will help prevent children from spreading infectious diarrhea through skin to skin contact. Daniels, Cousens, Makoae, and Feachem (1990) discuss how access to ventilated improved pit latrines in Lesotho led to a 24% reduction of childhood diarrhea from a rural community there by providing improved sanitation facilities. An alternative to ventilated improved pit latrines would be a pour flush toilet which is flushed using a bucket of water and has a pipe in which a water seal is created to prevent gases from coming up from the waste and flies from breeding in the waste. This solution is less appropriate than using a VIP latrine because it would be more costly, would likely require more maintenance, especially if the pipe broke, would be a more complicated design, and wouldn’t be as culturally acceptable because it would require the residents to learn to flush the toilets in addition to learning to wash their hands. Labor necessary for the pour-flush latrine, however, would be about the same.


Figure 1- Schematic showing a regular pit latrine versus a VIP latrine (courtesy of loofactory.blogspot.com)

Figure 1- Schematic showing a regular pit latrine versus a VIP latrine (courtesy of loofactory.blogspot.com)

Schematic of a pour-flush latrine (courtesy of www.unep.or.jp)

Schematic of a pour-flush latrine (courtesy of http://www.unep.or.jp)


Daniels, D., Cousens, S., Makoae, L., & Feachem, R. (). A Case-Control Study of the Impact of Improved Sanitation of Diarrhoea Morbidity in Lesotho. Bulletin of the World Health organization68, 455-463.


Linhorst, S. (2014, April 27). Carey Healy leads by aiming his Engineers Without Borders chapter at a serious childhood killer. Post-Standard.


Mihelcic, J. R. (2009). Project Motivation: Public Health and the Role of Engineers. Field guide to environmental engineering for development workers water, sanitation, and indoor air. Reston, VA: ASCE.