A New Class of Toilets
“Excuse me. May I use your toilet?” Meseret Workneh takes great joy in hearing this ordinary request.
Only five months ago, this twenty-seven-year-old mother of one could barely make ends meet from selling coffee on the side of the road. Now she manages her own public pay-for-use toilet in Africa’s largest open air market, Merkato, in Ethiopia’s capital.
Amid the hustling and bustling of the Addis Ababa marketplace, the beaming green and white walls are a welcome sight. Two small, well maintained stalls — one marked for women and the other for men — along with a unisex shower provide her customers an escape from the often dirty public latrines.
Even in this fast-growing metropolis, most households lack a basic toilet, a problem that is particularly acute in the slums of Addis Ababa where 80 percent of the city’s residents live. Too often, public toilets are constructed and then left to fall into disrepair. Without other options, residents are forced to openly defecate in alleyways, waterways or “flying toilets”— plastic bags that are then thrown into the open. The majority of public toilet blocks available throughout the city are shared by hundreds of people each day and are often smelly, poorly maintained and discharge to open drains, contributing to the spread of harmful bacteria. With the recent severe outbreak of acute watery diarrhea, the need for better sanitation is a high priority.
- Health Care