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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs