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Portable toilets in emergencies: lessons learned from Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010 highlighted the use of rented portable toilets in emergency context. To be effective, a WASH response must be provided as a package of 3 components: water, sanitation and hygiene. Water is addressed, among other items, by ready to use treatment plan; hygiene is addressed by pre-positioned NFI kits and promotion material such as posters, leaflets...The sanitation part of the package is less well equipped in terms of kits: there are the ready-to-use squatting slabs as a starting point but a latrine is comprised of a pit, a slab and a superstructure. Pit latrines and defecation trenches can be used only in areas where it is possible to dig. In areas where it is not possible to dig, other solutions must be employed: among them, portable latrines such as the ones rented by Catholic Relief Service and operated by Action Contre la Faim in Port-au-Prince where found to be an expensive but however a good solution. It would be a temptation to include them in contingency stocks but this is not really possible due to the volume and logistic involved. Rather, it is preferable to have standing agreements with rental companies in various parts of the world where such items may be needed. In case of emergency, the rental company will ship the needed toilet within few days.

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