Safe, Suitable Toilets Are Key to Disaster Recovery and Returning to a Sense of Normalcy

CWS Indonesia | October 25, 2019

    Nurila and her husband welcome a CWS recovery team member to their in-progress home. Photo: CWS

    Families are build their own latrines in the Central Sulawesi earthquake recovery program. Photo: CWS

    Nearly 25 million people in Indonesia don’t use toilets. They defecate instead in fields and forests, streams and rivers, ditches and canals, and even streets. Open defecation is not only an affront to dignity, it also poses health risks. Since the September 2018 earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, many families there are now part of that number, as the disaster left many families without access to proper toilets.

    To help address this problem, earlier this year as part of multi-faceted recovery effort around Palu, CWS supported Nurila and 227 other families to build temporary (T) shelters. Of course, Nurila was happy to have a roof over her head; she still didn’t feel completely satisfied, though, because she had no toilet. She worried because, near the shelter, she faced the danger of snakes and animals. So, she would walk to the riverbank or oceanside to defecate, because both were near a water source and there were bushes to hide behind. This was a bit less humiliating, Nurila told us.

    Since Nurila was far from alone in her concerns, CWS staff surveyed communities to evaluate the need for better access to toilets, and found that many needed support. So now, CWS and INANTA, a local organization, are helping 97 families build household toilets in two villages, including Nurila’s to allow safe access to sanitary toilets at all times. Since her family has already built their toilet, Nurila says, “We are glad to have our own toilet, so we no longer need to walk far to feel safe, especially at night”.

    CWS continues supporting recovery work with families around Palu with a growing focus on cash transfers to families to they can build their own T shelters and toilets with CWS technical assistance, but with the dignity of a hand up and no more hand-outs. These are, of course, vital in early response action after a disaster. But sooner rather than later, families are always grateful for the chance to return to lives of self-directed recovery.

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