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Emmanuel Mashandudze

Business Intelligence, Tools and Process Specialist, Witwatersrand University

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Preventing Cholera in rural Zimbabwe - Use of empty containers as taps outside blair-toilets

I saw something fascinating in rural Zimbabwe, Because of this epidemic disease(Cholera) people have come up with a way of making sure people always have access to clean water to wash hands after using toilets and all around homesteads. In most rural setting in Africa there is no tap water and this comes in handy in the sense that all you need is an empty container with a lid. A hole is drilled on the lid and a string is made to go through it and inside the lid a knot is made. The outside string is about a meter long which is tied to a stick. The water container is suspended about 1 meter from the group and for people to just step on the stick to tilt the water container without touching the container as a result preventing any possible contamination with the water in the container. I thought this could be shared to other areas which share the same problem

Topics: Africa
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  • mary T

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    Apr 7 2013: Thanks for your response. It makes it clearer to me. I think I understand the issue, trying to interrupt the contamination chain.

    Three thoughts come to mind --Firstly, I've read a little bit about the cholera epidemic that hit London in the 1830s, and about how John Snow mapped the incidences of cholera and thus discovered that a particular well was contaminated. So, my first thought is -- the source of the hand-washing water must be clean. Ground water can be contaminated. So, the water itself has to be purified. I am curious - why isn't rain water used? If I'm not mistaken, rain water is purified by the process of nature.

    My second thought may seem very silly but what you describe brings to mind movies and television. In the introduction of a show called "Petticoat Junction," there are young women showering below a cistern of rain water. They pull a chain, the cistern tips, and water pours out to rinse them. Same concept, but yours is a smaller scale. Lots of old western movies show this type of device.

    Third and final idea -- I suppose it's ridiculous, but hand sanitizers, are they available? The kind we stick in our purses, or the larger models that are installed on the walls of hospitals and other public buildings. I don't know about this idea, but I thought I'd mention it.

    I wish you well.
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    Apr 11 2013: But what do they do about toilets? I was installing solar system in shacks today and toilets is a big problem people use buckets and just leave the waste in their shacks until it is full. This is just a breading ground for all sorts diseases.

    But I'm don't sure I understand how this bucket works.. Won't the lid come off if you hang it up from that string attached?
  • Apr 10 2013: In rural areas of mexico are using this kind of containers that your talking about it. You have to pay attention in two issues. Firstable you have build the sistem and change the people culture, that is really athe most dificult part, i was living one year in a rural comunity doing social service and the people dosent understand somethings that maybe for you or for me are basics. And the second thing to consider its what kind of animals are in the areas, around de water , cuz when the containers are in the floor level behind the himan activitis some animals dont be near the container cuz they are afraid of humans but if you put it higher maybe some kind of birds or some bugs can contaminate the water too, we discover in mexico that whe we put improvised containers in higher level the birds think tha was in a securitqy zone to stop and waste it there.

    Its a good idea but i always think tha we have to create the cheapest version of the working systems that already knows that functions well, in this case... How to build a real hand wash with the cheapest a easist materials but with the same quality and functionality tha the one that you have inside your bathroom
  • Apr 7 2013: Sooo sorry, you have to go through this.
  • mary T

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    Apr 7 2013: Hi, Emmanuel, I don't completely understand the question. What is a blair-toilet? Maybe, like what I would know as an outhouse, or outdoor shed with a latrine pit? And how does water get into the container? Is it rain water? But how d0es it get in, if there is a lid? Is there an opening for water to pour out? I would assume that the string itself becomes contaminated, whether by feet or hands or whatever. Anyway, sorry I don't understand. It's interesting, and I can kind of visualize it, but not sure. Best wishes, Mary
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      Apr 7 2013: The problem is there is no way I can upload a sketch of how this works. The Blair-Toilet is similar to an outside pit latrine like you say. In most of theses places water is from streams and wells. In developed areas it will be from boreholes. For the water to get in obviously the lid is removed and its a manual refill