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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Excreta disposal standard 2: Appropriate and adequate toilet facilities

People have adequate, appropriate and acceptable toilet facilities, sufficiently close to their dwellings, to allow rapid, safe and secure access at all times, day and night.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

- they are sited in such a way as to minimise security threats to users,  especially women and girls, throughout the day and the night (see guidance note 3 and Protection Principle 1, guidance notes 1–6).

- they provide a degree of privacy in line with the - norms of the users(see guidance note 3)

- they are sufficiently easy to use and keep clean and do not present a health hazard to the environment. Depending on the context, the toilets are appropriately provided with water for hand washing and/or for flushing (see guidance notes 7–8)

- they allow for the disposal of women’s menstrual hygiene materials and provide women with the necessary privacy for washing and drying menstrual hygiene materials (see guidance note 9)

- they minimise fly and mosquito breeding (see guidance note 7)

- they are provided with mechanisms for desludging, transport and appropriate disposal in the event that the toilets are sealed or are for long-term use and there is a need to empty them (see guidance note 11)

- in high water table or flood situations, the pits or containers for excreta are made watertight in order to minimise contamination of groundwater and the environment (see guidance note 11).


Guidance notes

  1. Acceptable facilities: Successful excreta disposal programmes depend on an understanding of people’s varied needs and their participation. It may not be possible to make all toilets acceptable to all groups. Special toilets may need to be constructed for children, older people and persons with disabilities, e.g. toilets with seats or hand rails or provision of bed pans, potties or commodes. The type of sanitation facility adopted depends on the time of the intervention, the preferences and cultural habits of the intended users, the existing infrastructure, the availability of water (for flushing and water seals), the soil formation and the availability of construction materials. Different excreta disposal types for different phases of a disaster response are listed in the table below.

  2. Public toilets: In public places, toilets are provided with established systems for proper and regular cleaning and maintenance. Disaggregated population data are used to plan the number of women’s cubicles to men’s using an approximate ration of 3:1. Where possible, urinals should be provided (see Appendix 3: Minimum numbers of toilets at public places and institutions in disaster situations).
  3. Family toilets: Family toilets are the preferred option where possible. One toilet for a maximum of 20 people should be the target. Where there are no existing toilets, it is possible to start with one for 50 people and lowering the number of users to 20 as soon as possible. In some circumstances, space limitations make it impossible to meet these figures. In such cases, advocate strongly for extra space. However, it should be remembered that the primary aim is to provide and maintain an environment free from human faeces.
  4. Shared facilities: Households should be consulted on the siting and design, and the responsible cleaning and maintenance of shared toilets. Generally, clean latrines are more likely to be frequently used. Efforts should be made to provide people living with chronic illnesses such as HIV and AIDS with easy access to a toilet as they frequently suffer from chronic diarrhoea and reduced mobility.
  5. Safe facilities: Inappropriate siting of toilets may make women and girls more vulnerable to attack, especially during the night. Ensure that women and girls feel and are safe when using the toilets provided. Where possible, communal toilets should be provided with lighting, or households provided with torches. The input of the community should be sought with regard to ways of enhancing the safety of users (see Protection Principles 1–2).
  6. Use of local building material and tools: The use of locally available material for construction of latrines is highly recommended. It enhances the participation of the affected population to use and maintain the facilities. Providing the population with construction tools will also support this aim.
  7. Water and anal cleansing material: Water should be provided for toilets with water flush and/or hygienic seal mechanisms. For a conventional pit toilet, it may be necessary to provide toilet paper or other material for anal cleansing. Users should be consulted on the most culturally appropriate cleansing materials and their safe disposal.
  8. Hand washing: Users should have the means to wash their hands with soap or an alternative (such as ash) after using toilets, after cleaning the bottom of a child who has been defecating, and before eating and preparing food. There should be a constant source of water near the toilet for this purpose.
  9. Menstruation: Women and girls of menstruating age, including schoolgirls, should have access to suitable materials for the absorption and disposal of menstrual blood. Women and girls should be consulted on what is culturally appropriate. Latrines should include provision for appropriate disposal of menstrual material or private washing facilities (see Hygiene promotion standard 2, guidance notes 2 and 8).
  10. Desludging: When appropriate, and depending on the need, desludging of toilets/septic tanks and excreta containers, including siting of final sewage disposal point, needs to be considered right from the start.
  11. Toilets in difficult environments: In flood or urban disasters, the provision
    of appropriate excreta disposal facilities is usually difficult. In such situations, various human waste containment mechanisms, such as raised toilets, urine diversion toilets, sewage containment tanks and the use of temporary disposable plastic bags with appropriate collection and disposal systems, should be considered. These different approaches need to be supported by hygiene promotion activities.