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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs