Features

The importance of toilets in the provision of health services

MUTALE MASALA
Sanitation refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faecal excreta.
It also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions through services such as garbage collection and waste water disposal. In practical terms it usually means lack of toilets or hygienic toilets that anybody would want to use voluntarily. In this paper I will try to highlight the importance and conditions of toilets in Zambia.
Lack of proper sanitation is a serious issue that is affecting most developing countries. The importance of hygiene toilets lies in an effort to prevent diseases which can be transmitted through human waste, which afflict both developed and developing countries. It is estimated that up to 5 million people die each year from preventable waterborne diseases due to inadequate sanitation (WHO). Most of the affected are young children below the ages of five and women and girls.
In many private and public institutions such as bus stations, drinking places, offices and surprisingly even police stations, courts and other government institutions, toilets do not receive proper attention as compared to the rest of the building.
And sometimes the situation is exasperated by the public users who do not exhibit toilet etiquette. Worse still, some individuals are not civic-minded or concerned about others when they use public toilets. It only needs a few individuals careless about hygiene to turn clean toilets into dirty ones.
Some people are in the habit of not flushing toilets after use, while some others squat on the seat. It must be noted that no matter how beautiful the buildings or premises are, if the toilets are dirty, the country is seen as backward.
Toilets must always be kept clean by making sure they have good hygiene services like soap dispensers. Floors should be mopped thoroughly with cleaning agents and as the general rule of toilet etiquette, after using the toilet wash your hands with soap and be smart to flush the toilet after use.
Public toilets must be used as we use our own toilets at home. They must be workers specifically assigned to clean toilets at every institution especially public places to ensure cleanliness throughout the day. One example I can cite is the intercity bus terminus where these restrooms are kept clean, this may be attributed to the availability of cleaners at all times at the institution.
The shopping malls that have dotted Lusaka City are also another example of buildings that are provided with clean toilets. At any given  time, there are cleaners to ensure these restrooms are prepared for the next user.
However, it is disappointing to note that in many cases, those who are assigned to ensure the cleanliness of toilets are degraded by society. They are looked down upon as the lowest people in society.
Sanitary officers should not be stigmatised by society as the job they do is very important in provision of good  health service, actually I call them ‘health assistants’ and deserve to be well remunerated and must be provided with proper standardised attire.
They may not be of a better schooling but can we imagine life without them? No one would want to use a public toilet.
We may forget about the cleaners but let us wait until we are in a public place and nature calls.
It is important to note that access to basic sanitation and good hygiene is human right and everyone deserves the right to the benefits and dignity of safe toilet, especially women and girls who are often vulnerable to the effects of poor sanitation.
The author is Zambia Weightlifting Federation President

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