Let’s talk about the state of the city’s public toilets

Tuesday September 8 2020

The state of most public toilets in the city is

The state of most public toilets in the city is dire due to various reasons, including overuse and low maintenance. PHOTO | SALOME GREGORY 

By Salome Gregory

You are in the city centre and you need to use the toilet. As you ponder on what to do, you remember there is a public toilet not so far from where you are. On your way there, you wonder whether the toilet will be clean. You have been to many public toilets and know they are not always clean. You have no choice at the moment.

A Life & Style survey shows that the majority of public toilets in the city are not in good state and therefore pose a health risk to users. Most of the toilets are dirty and do not have clean water, soap, they also lack cleaning equipment as well as waste bins.

Most of the over 20 toilets surveyed in Karikakoo, Tandika, Sinza and Mikocheni are in bad state despite the fact that people pay to use the service. The charges for a short call range from Sh200 to 300, Sh700 for a cold bath and Sh 1,200 for a hot one.

Many city residents depend on them when going about their daily businesses but are frustrated by the poor states of the toilets.Interviewed users said they have no option but to use the toilets even if they are not clean.

Cleaners at the facilities blame the situation on the fact that most of the toilets infrastructure are old, making it difficult to maintain the required cleanliness. They also put the blame on users, who they say don’t leave the toilets clean after use.

Sarafina Shirima, 32, a business woman in Kariakoo market says most of the toilets in Karikaoo don’t have clean water, soap and bins in which to dump used sanitary pads. This, she says makes some women dump their pads without even covering them. The sight of soiled sanitary pads makes it difficult for some people to use the toilets, as they can’t stand seeing the filth.

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“It is normal seeing period blood in public toilets. Some women even try to flush pads down the toilets despite being aware of the fact that pads are not to be thrown in the toilets to avoid clogging. Finding toilets which are not functioning well is normal. This has been posing a health risky to other users,” says Sarafina.

She says, during Coronavirus outbreak, soap and water were available in public toilets in the area. Now that it is believed that there is no Corona anymore, there are no soaps anymore. Life has returned to normal. “I think it is important for the municipality to make sure they inspect these toilets on a daily basis to avoid negligence,” Sarafina suggests.

She further says that for the toilets with waste bins, the bins don’t get emptied on time. The cleaning companies are not doing their job well. This causes bad smell in the toilets, which spreads to offices close to the public toilets.

Sauli Joseph who lives and works in Temeke says, the issue of the poor state of toilets is not a public-toilets-only matter but is also a problem at work places. At his work place, he says, there are only four latrines, two of which are not properly functioning. This means the over 40 male workers at his office depend only on the two functioning latrines.

Sauli says due to the poor hygienic conditions of the toilets, most of the time workers at his office suffer from urinary tract infections. A lot of complaints have been forwarded to the human resources office but no serious measures have been taken, according to Sauli.

A report titled Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa published in March last year shows that 25 million Tanzanians use unsanitary or shared latrines. The report commissioned by the World Bank and endorsed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare further shows that 5.4 million people in the country have no latrines and so they ease themselves in the open. The report adds that poor people are 41 times more likely to practise open defecation than the fairly affluent.

“Each person who practises open defecation spends almost 2.5 days a year looking for a secluded location so he or she defecates. This waste of time leads to large economic losses about Sh22.4m each year in access time,” the report reads in part. This cost falls disproportionately on women as caregivers who may spend additional time accompanying young children or the sick or elderly relatives to secluded locations.

The report also says that the cost is likely to be an underestimation as those without toilets, particularly women, will be obliged to find a private location for urination as well. Costs associated with shared sanitation are likely to be higher if the time taken to reach and queue at a public latrine as well as user fees were added.

Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) writes on its website that, the welfare of workers in Tanzania is under legislation through the Employment and Labour Relations Act, 2004. The Act is aimed at protecting workers’ rights on health and safety in the workplace. It also provides for the protection of persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with activities of persons at work.

According to the website, the employer is to conduct regular medical examinations of his/her employees in accordance with the Act, to choose health and safety representatives in a workplace with four or more workers.

The employer must reduce any dangers to a minimum before issuing protective clothing. Employers must make sure that the workplace is safe and healthy, and must not allow any worker to do work that is potentially dangerous.

The Act is so open to the punishment for not complying with the Act when the employee is killed or suffers serious body injury the employer may be liable to a fine of not less than Sh10 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both imprisonment and fine.

A survey by Life&Style that involved ten workers shows they know very little about the Employment and Labour Relations Act, 2004. Evidence also shows that most workers completely know nothing about the Act and what it is about.

Gertrude Lusaka, 32, a toilet cleaner in Ubungo, says the dilapidated state of her toilet doesn’t stop people from using it on a daily basis. She also provides bathing facilities at the same place at a cost of Sh1,000.

“In a day the toilet is used by more than 100 people. The bathroom gets about 15 people a day. The most challenging part is female customers who tend to live their used sanitary pads laying on the floor after they find the disposal bins full,” says Gertrude.

According to Unicef, majority of sanitation costs borne by the household, poor Tanzanians are significantly disadvantaged in terms of access to water and sanitation. Tanzanian households in the poorest quintile are 41 times more likely to practise open defecation than the richest.

The organization also states that only 35 per cent of the rural population has access to improved toilet facilities, compared to 69 per cent of the urban population. With mass migration to urban centres and expanding informal housing, urban populations are suffering from overused toilet facilities.

In Dar es Salaam 62 per cent of households reported shared use of a toilet facility compared to the national average of 36 per cent.

This means that there is a rising number of people who rely on public toilets to ease themselves. However, the dire state of these public facilities is becoming an alarming issue.

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