Global Partners has implemented A LOT of toilet (latrine) projects lately. As a matter of fact, almost half of the projects we’ve funded in the last year have included toilets. So why are we focusing so much of our efforts on such a simple intervention?

First, it’s what schools and communities want. Local people understand their needs. When we partner with a school, we support community members and school staff as they work together to identify the reasons why their children do not, or cannot, attend school and then take actionable steps toward addressing these issues. They map their existing resources and concerns and vote on the project(s) that will most improve primary school attendance. When they select toilets, we do toilets.

Second, poorly constructed latrines pose a serious threat to the health and safety of students and teachers. Many of the schools we partner with don’t have an adequate number of latrines, and some lack any working latrines whatsoever. In fact, 47% of schools in East Africa lack basic sanitation facilities. We also frequently encounter latrines that are full and beginning to sink, which is extremely dangerous. Inadequate sanitation facilities are also unhealthy. Toilets and handwashing stations can help stop the spread of diseases and parasites such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Around 80% of illnesses in lower income countries are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.

Third, a lack of safe and private latrines is a significant barrier to girls’ education. One out of every ten girls in Africa miss school during their period, and at least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. If toilets do not offer sufficient privacy and washing facilities are not provided, menstruating girls frequently choose not to attend school and may eventually end up dropping out.

When a community decides to implement a latrine project at their school, we work with them to make sure the final project meets their needs and is sustainable. In areas with clay soil, we use SanPlat technology for the latrines to mitigate against the poor soil conditions and prevent future collapse. The latrines we build include privacy walls, and we add washing stations for menstruating girls as well. We also provide handwashing stations. Sure, toilets might not be the most exciting and innovative intervention, but local communities know what their children need to succeed. Our role is to help turn their visions into reality.