GW Study Suggests Shared Sanitation Facilities Are Clean and Safe

Households in rural Indonesia and Bangladesh who share improved sanitation facilities report that their facilities are clean and safe for women, according to an analysis recently published by PLOS ONE. Historically, the global community has been hesitant to endorse shared sanitation because of concerns that an increased number of users will decrease the facility’s safety; limit access for women, children, and the elderly; and reduce the facility’s cleanliness.

Jay Graham, an assistant professor at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University and Kali Nelson, a graduate of the MPH program, worked in collaboration with Craig Kullman, a water and sanitation specialist at the World Bank, and Jonathan Karver, an independent research consultant in Washington, DC, to characterize shared sanitation facilities in rural Bangladesh and Indonesia.

This study shows that private sanitation facilities remain the preferred choice for most people living in these rural areas. And, not surprisingly, it also suggests that as the number of people sharing a latrine or sanitation facility goes up, the cleanliness goes down and the people express more dissatisfaction.

However, this research also shows that when shared sanitation facilities were clean and used by a limited number of households, people reported they were both satisfied and felt safe. The results of this research suggest that shared sanitation facilities that maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness and limit the number of users are a good alternative to private latrines, which can be costly to build and maintain.

Read the study