Improving access to safe sanitation

Location: Epworth, Zimbabwe
Date: Oct 2007 - Jan 2009

The project worked with 500 families in Epworth Bellapaise, a peri-urban settlement on the edge of Harare, who were victims of 'Operation Restore Order' carried out by the Zimbabwean government in 2005, which rendered hundreds of thousands of people homeless, creating massive need. Forced to move to slum areas such as Epworth Bellapaise, which have poor water and sanitation services, women, children and men had no choice but to defecate in bush areas or use unsafe pit latrines. This, in turn, exposed families to very high risk of water and sanitation-related diseases, including cholera and dysentery.

The project promoted ecological sanitation (ecosan) latrines to contribute to better health. The choice of this technology reflected the fact that Epworth is an informal settlement where construction of permanent structures has not been approved by the authorities.

As a result of the project, 795 ecosan toilets were introduced across Epworth Bellapaise and local communities have been trained to build and use the toilets.


Epworth Bellapaise was the epicentre for cholera outbreaks prior to 2007, largely due to the lack of suitable toilets in the area and the prevalence of open defecation. Reports from the project's 'Peer Educators', (health and hygiene education promoters) indicate a significant reduction in the incidence of diarrhoea.

Between January 2008 and January 2009 there was no cholera outbreak in the target area (which is hugely significant given the social, economic and infrastructural breakdown in Zimbabwe during the same period).

This can, in large part, be attributed to the construction of ecosan latrines and the intense health and hygiene education carried out between September 2007 and January 2009.

The ecosan toilets have combated the communities' tendency to open defecation, which has greatly reduced the occurrence of cholera outbreaks in the area. Previously, the absence of toilets meant that families practiced open defecation and come the rainy season, faecal matter would flow into the shallow wells which the community used to collect their drinking water. It is during this process that the water borne diseases would be transmitted and outbreaks would occur. So the construction of the ecosan toilets has cut off this disease transmission route and prevented the outbreak of cholera in the project area.

In addition, the ecosan toilets help to:

  • Reduce high medical bills, as a result of improved access to environmentally friendly sanitation facilities.
  • Dispose of human waste safely (and generate a by product to aid families farming small areas of land/to generate income).

Next steps

Following the end of this project, a new related project based in Epworth, Promoting Examples of Participatory Local Empowerment in Urban Planning in Southern Africa (PEOPLE UP - IA33900004ZIM), began February 2009.

Further information

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