Providing latrines and privacy on the Tunisian border

Published: 9 March 2011 16:00 CET

Katherine Roux in Tunisia
As your eye traces the line of the horizon near the border between Libya and Tunisia, there is a constant stream of people walking between the camp and the open desert. The skyline is beautiful, but what the eye doesn’t detect, the nose does.

Open defecation has been the only solution for human waste along the border point – at least until today that is. The IFRC and the Tunisian Red Crescent have constructed the first 50 toilets and will build 400 more in the coming weeks. Their structure and design is simple, effective and, most importantly, flexible.

Local residents from the nearby town of Ben Guerdane have received cash for working on the installation of the latrines. Trenches have been dug, and sandbags laid within a superstructure that provides individual spaces with squatting plates.

In this context, this has to be one of the best systems possible. In the middle of the desert, where the camps are located, there is no electricity and running water is limited.

“Whilst the toilets may not be fancy, they actually provide people with privacy and dignity, which is very important,” says Anne Sine Horstad, the Norwegian Red Cross’s water and sanitation coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

And once the latrine is full, it is covered with sand, and the ground is left just as it was before. If needed, the process can be easily replicated and the superstructures can be re-used.

Some people here have lost everything they owned when they fled Libya, but the Red Cross Red Crescent is working to ensure that it doesn't mean they have to lose their dignity.