Latex Gloves In Latrine Education

By Jen Long

Through the use of a latex glove and some papier mache, an Ethiopian public health educator gets the attention of a gathering of villagers. Instructor Mathios is holding a homemade doll that has a latex glove hidden inside as its abdomen. Water feeds into the doll's mouth via an iv tube, gently swelling the latex glove which gives the doll the appearance of being well nourished.

Mathios begins to tell a tale of a family from a neighboring village who has several children. The unfortunate thing about their village is that its inhabitants use its streets and pathways as toilets. At this point in Mathios' story, his doll springs some leaks in its latex abdomen. He continues, telling his listeners how the family's water and food become contaminated from fecal bacteria that runs into wells and onto crops. Two of the family's children become desperately ill with diarrhea. Just as his homemade doll empties of fluid and collapses in Mathios' hands, he sadly announces that the children have died of dehydration.

This visualization of a child's rapid death is not hard for Mathios' audience to believe. They too live and trade in streets that have their share of human waste. For many in this room, it is easy to understand the moral of his tale. Child mortality rates, public health and personal prosperity are directly connected to sanitation efforts. But how does a small town like this manage to incorporate effective changes to their sanitation when it is something their culture has not always emphasized?

Mathios takes visitors on a tour of the town to demonstrate how his program is getting the "latrine message" across to his audience. "We have a model latrine here that is made from locally available resources. Using that, we teach them" What looks to be a little tukul (a thatched hut) is the famous model latrine right in front of the shop where people buy sugar, flour and other materials.

Guards, employed by the non governmental organization that sponsor's Mathios' work, stand by to maintain the latrine and encourage its use. "Everybody come here, to this shop. And when they come, we teach," says Mathios. Other instructors are on site, teaching villagers and visiting farmers how to build simple outdoor pit latrines for use near their own homes, using flat stones for covers.

Sure enough, as the visitors walk along their village tour, they look up at a nearby ridge and spot a child barely more than a toddler dutifully dragging a flat stone lid back across the top of a latrine his mother had made for him. It is evident that the serious lesson of the doll with the latex glove tummy got across to this family. - 30540

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here