Special Toilets Have Special Needs
Our ImpactStoriesSpecial Toilets Have Special Needs

What kind of toilet is the right toilet? We ask that question every day, because we work with communities living on lakes, floodplains and high in remote mountains - places where standard sanitation systems simply don’t work. One of our key sanitation initiatives is in Vanuatu, and our “Match In May” campaign focuses on raising funds to broaden our work.

If we are to achieve SDG6 then we have to develop and market innovative sanitation technology that works for the millions of people who live in challenging environments. In addition to developing appropriate technologies, EWB Australia is also supporting governments to develop best practice policies and standards so appropriate sanitation is accessible and well managed.

Vanuatu EWB Field Professional Matt King started our work in supporting sanitation enterprise teams in Port Vila with new technical skills for installation and maintenance in peri-urban areas. But it is his work with Nelly Ham, at the Ministry of Environmental Health that will have far reaching benefits across this nation of 85 Pacific islands.

“People are used to the bush toilet, the pit latrine, and when you build new toilets you really need to explain the maintenance part, the building part. We want to have standards for improved, sealed and composting toilets. EWB bring the knowledge, the technicalities, to make one proper way of doing things,” explains Nelly, who runs Vanuatu’s Environmental Health Unit.

Working with Nelly, Matt adapted best practice sanitation approaches into a set of codes, specifications, and processes covering all types of toilets and imported fittings, developing Vanuatu’s first set of sanitation standards. To bring these into law so that they can be enforced, amendments to the public health act will also be required, something Stephanie Hamel, EWB Vanuatu Program Manager, has been developing over the past 12 months.

“We will not only have the standards, we also have to make the amendments to the Public Health Act on sanitation,” explains Nelly “You have so many types of fittings, some are good, some are not, and sometimes they don’t last. So for any pipes, any fittings, any sanitary devices that come in to the country they must be one standard. So in the amendment it says that the Director of Public Health must have a registry of all the devices that come in - something that we don’t have now.”

Around 50% of Ni-van people have access to a toilet, but the market for sanitation products and systems is growing and the government is keen to support this demand. These regulations are crucial to ensure safe installation and effective governance, and will apply to manufacture, supply of parts and to sanitation enterprises.

“It will mean that we can have control for anyone who wants to build toilets…and we want to encourage the enterprises, maybe climb up the sanitation ladder a little bit. We can enforce and then maybe things can become better,” adds Nelly.

“They have helped, they have really made a lot of difference,” says Nelly of the EWB team that has worked on these technical guidelines. “In five to ten years…my hope would be if we can reach all these people in the outer islands with one good toilet, and the knowledge of why they should have a toilet. For all to have an improved toilet – maybe 90%. That would be really nice.” She smiles “I would be a really happy woman.”

EWB Australia and EWB NZ are proud partners working together in Vanuatu. This program is supported by ANCP and Australia Aid. DONATE NOW to our 'Match in May' campaign - every $1 dollar donated becomes $6!