CHAMATA, ZAMBIA — The locals call it the “VIP latrine.” In contrast to the facilities most familiar to community members, it’s quite an upgrade. The 60% of residents who currently have a means of waste disposal use pit-latrines, whose name is self-explanatory. Pit-latrines are unprofessionally-built, poorly-ventilated shacks which frequently collapse, especially during the rainy season. For the remainder of villagers, their options are either using a neighbor’s underwhelming facilities or, literally, finding a nearby bush.

The realities of this situation are that the dearth of hygienic waste disposal options leads directly and repeatedly to families’ shame over their shoddy facilities, especially when they receive visitors, as well as suffering from intestinal diseases that range from uncomfortable to deadly.

The VIP latrine is the first in a planned series of 32 new toilets, largely funded and constructed by the community itself. The toilet’s actual name is “pour-flush latrine,” referring to the concrete basin and the means of emptying it. Though it isn’t anything fancy by western standards, it has walls made from concrete and a door that closes and locks, which are improvements worthy of a title of distinction.  The community is working together to continue construction on the remaining new latrines, which by the project’s conclusion will benefit all 350 very important people who call Chamata home.

Chamata, Zambia. Latrine Old Chamata, Zambia. Latrine New

Above left, old pit latrine. Above right, new pour-flush VIP latrine.