News / Africa

'Peepoo' Boosts Health, Safety in Nairobi Slum

Children pose for a photo at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera as one boy holds up his Peepoo toilet, April 4, 2012. Toilet facilities are in poor condition or nonexistent in the slums, and safety concerns make using a toChildren pose for a photo at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera as one boy holds up his Peepoo toilet, April 4, 2012. Toilet facilities are in poor condition or nonexistent in the slums, and safety concerns make using a to
x
Children pose for a photo at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera as one boy holds up his Peepoo toilet, April 4, 2012. Toilet facilities are in poor condition or nonexistent in the slums, and safety concerns make using a to
Children pose for a photo at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera as one boy holds up his Peepoo toilet, April 4, 2012. Toilet facilities are in poor condition or nonexistent in the slums, and safety concerns make using a to
Jill Craig

NAIROBI, Kenya - The World Bank estimates that 2.6 billion people, or 40 percent of the world’s population, have no access to proper toilet facilities. In 2005, Swedish architects Camilla Wirseen and Anders Wilhelmson created the Peepoo - a personal, fully biodegradable toilet bag that can be used by people living in slums to improve their health and safety. It can even help to prevent women and children from getting raped on their way to the toilet at night.

 

Karen is a 12-year-old girl from the Nairobi slum of Kibera. She is accustomed to using what is known as a "pay" toilet - costing 6 to 12 cents, per use. These community toilets are rarely cleaned or emptied, and waiting lines are long. Karen describes a typical morning.
 

"The pay toilet, when you go there, maybe you have diarrhea. Many people are in the toilet, waiting for one person to move. You and your diarrhea, is just about to fall, you have to wait for all those people to go to the toilet, then you’ll be the last person."

In Kibera, sanitation options are limited. Residents can use either the pay toilets, or the free ones, which are even less-frequently emptied.


Improving sanitation issues

But perhaps the most infamous of all is the ubiquitous "flying toilet," whereby a person defecates into a thin, polyurethane sack, ties it up, and simply tosses it out.


In response to this problem, Swedish architects Camilla Wirseen and Anders Wilhelmson created the Peepoo, a thin bag made of biodegradable plastic, lined with a doubled-sided plastic funnel. At the bottom, they added urea, which breaks down waste and inactivates pathogens. Wirseen explains how this toilet bag works.


"It’s like a mobile phone. You have it in your pocket and you can use it whenever you need it. And needing to go to the toilet is an urgent problem. So, you have it there, you use it, you tie it up, and that’s it," said Wirseen.

A Girl at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera holds up her Peepoo toilet next to a garden fertilized by human waste, April 4, 2012. J. Craig/VOAA Girl at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera holds up her Peepoo toilet next to a garden fertilized by human waste, April 4, 2012. J. Craig/VOA
x
A Girl at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera holds up her Peepoo toilet next to a garden fertilized by human waste, April 4, 2012. J. Craig/VOA
A Girl at the Bethel Outreach Children's Center in the Nairobi slum of Kibera holds up her Peepoo toilet next to a garden fertilized by human waste, April 4, 2012. J. Craig/VOA

Removing safety risks
 

Besides the daily nuisance of time wasted while standing in line for a pay or free toilet, Kibera residents face great security risks if they need to go out at night. Even at 12, Karen is well aware of these dangers.


"If you go to the toilet at night, someone can rape you. If you’re a child, if you don’t go with an adult, someone can rape you. If you’re a big person and you go to the toilet alone, thieves can steal from you," she said.


Wirseen agrees that this basic need to go to the toilet presents great safety risks to both women and children.


"The thing is, that when you go to the toilet, you want privacy. So you go somewhere where you are alone. This happens all over the world when it comes to sanitation," said Wirseen. "The woman goes out into the bush to go to the toilet - a man knows she is coming. Or a group of men know… But I didn’t understand how many kids. In fact, the kids are raped as [they are] walking. They are in schools, and they don’t have any toilets, so they have to run out somewhere to do it…"


Efficient use of waste in economical way

With overflowing pay and free toilets, and the "flying toilets" which often explode upon landing, sanitation challenges are enormous. Wirseen said the Peepoo toilet bag is designed to help alleviate these problems.


"We are inactivating the pathogens in that short period of time. We say a security time of four weeks. After that, a problem has become a resource. So it’s become a fertilizer. With high value. High nutrients," she said.


Each Peepoo bag costs about four cents. It can be used in the privacy of the home, then returned to a local Peepoo "agent," who refunds 1 cent, to the user. It is even more economically feasible than a pay toilet.


But for Karen, there are better reasons to use this toilet bag.


"Peepoo bag is better because if you go to Peepoo bag, you feel relaxed, there isn’t any bad smell on the toilet, at school, you don’t seem disturbed by any person, that’s why they are good," she said.


So for Karen and others in Kibera, it seems that a simple toilet bag really is improving their lives. 

 

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Aiko from: YsOXlYvtV
June 12, 2012 9:36 PM
I think that no-one is really eretnily the person that they want to be. We can all aspire to being the person we want to be without letting that become too important. We should be happy being the person we are, but equally continue to work towards becoming who we want to be. Bearing in mind that we are just one person, we can aim to improve or change certain of our aspects/traits but we have to remember that we cannot become an eretnily new person, created out of our (sometimes ridiculous) aspirations. And then of course there is the difference between who we want to be and what we want to be.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs