Hitting the Trifecta Part 3– How latrines impact personal health through improved sanitation

Trifecta – a type of bet, especially on horse races, in which the bettor must select the first three finishers in exact order.

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced Hunger Relief International’s concept of providing a water filter, latrine, and safe cookstove to a single household as a means of significantly improving outcomes in that household. We call this idea the “Trifecta”. The payoff, in terms of health outcomes, is far greater than a winning trifecta ticket could ever be at the horse track! Part 1 was all about setting the scene for WHY there is such a great need in the rural communities of southern Guatemala.


Parts 2-4 of the series explain each component of the Trifecta in detail. In Part 2, we looked at how critical clean drinking water is to personal health, particularly as it impacts children. The drastic nature of this connection is shown in the life-changing impact of a water filter.


This installment, Part 3, addresses another personal health challenge: SANITATION. In this installment, we look at the impact a latrine can have on sanitation and personal health.


One of the best ways to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease is through proper sanitation practices like handwashing and personal hygiene. However, when the water isn’t safe, handwashing is not an effective method of preventing the spread of bacteria. This means that whatever is on your hands can get reintroduced to your body if you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. This sanitation issue leads us to another sanitation issue: uncontained human waste in the environment.


A latrine, which is a crude version of a western bathroom, goes a long way toward stopping the cycle of reintroducing fecal bacteria into the local ecosystem. Let’s take a look at how:


This is a common vantage of the scenery in Southern rural Guatemala.


Trifecta Component #2 – Latrines. In Part 2 of this series, we shared a statistic that 2 billion people worldwide use a drinking water source that is contaminated with feces (World Health Organization). Here is a common reality in the mountain villages where Hunger Relief International serves: A family does not have a latrine. They go to the bathroom out on the mountain somewhere. The same is true for the people we serve in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  People, being creatures of habit, tend to use the same general area to do this. Besides the indignity of not having a private place to go, imagine what happens if you don’t have shoes. And now we get to the really tough part – the flies that tend to buzz around poop. Guess what else flies like to buzz around? Food. And guess what? The flies that are buzzing around and landing on human poop are the same ones that are buzzing around and landing on this family’s dinner, thereby cross-contaminating their food with the bacteria from their feces.


This is the reality for many.


Traditional latrine built by HRI.


A latrine offers privacy and dignity, and it also offers a way to break this cycle of cross-contamination. A traditional latrine is essentially a toilet seated on top of a pit that is anywhere from 10-25 feet deep, set inside the housing. The toilet seat has a lid, closing off the pit from flies, containing human waste, and greatly reducing the occurrence of cross-contamination with the food supply. A new pit must be dug every 5-7 years, depending on how deep it is, so it is not a perfect system. But it is a vast improvement!


The presence of clean water and a latrine can actually prevent the spread of bacteria. This means we can have a productive conversation about hand-washing and other hygiene practices. Instead of being stuck in a cycle of unsanitary conditions and practices – a cycle of sanitation, hygiene, and health is poised to operate in communities where it hasn’t previously.


Want to participate in the life change that a Trifecta can bring about in a single-family? You can be a part of this by partnering with Hunger Relief International. A Trifecta system in Guatemala costs about $500. Give a Trifecta by clicking here. Make sure you put “Trifecta” in the comments box. Or, you can create your own fundraiser and crowdsource the funds. (Facebook makes it easy. Click here to start! Just identify Hunger Relief International as your non-profit recipient of the funds, and let us know it’s for Trifecta!)


Written by Trey Williams, HRI Community Liaison

NEXT: Hitting the Trifecta Part 4 – What is a safe cookstove, and why is it so important to personal health?

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