How to use a toilet

What do you tell someone who has never used a toilet before, or only ever used a shared latrine?

We’ve been doing this last week, as new latrines have been completed in some communities and their owners have approached them looking a bit nervous.

It essentially goes like this:

  • Clean your toilet at least once a week. Keep it clean throughout the week.
  • Keep the door closed. This is a VIP (ventilated improved pit) latrine, which means it keeps down both odours and flies. Air is drawn in to the pit (usually dug by the householder to around 12ft deep) through a fly screen above the door. As long as the air goes that way, no smell comes out. The air comes out of a vent pipe. Any flies that make it into the latrine head into the pit, see daylight at the end of the pipe and attempt to fly out, where they’re intercepted by a fly screen at the top of the pipe. Eventually they die and fall back into the pit. Genius.
  • Use toilet paper, paper, or plantain leaves. Toilet paper costs money as nice as it is, but plantain leaves are freely available (and quite soft and strong as it turns out). Don’t use corn husks. Throw your used paper or leaves down into the pit, don’t leave them around or put them in a bag.
  • If your children can’t use the toilet, get them to go in an improvised potty. Dump it all in the toilet.
  • Don’t let your children defecate in the open.
  • If you look after your latrine, it will serve your household for several years to come.

EDIT: A new rule, based on observations yesterday:

  • Don’t store food in it.