Breadline Africa to tackle South Africa’s pit latrine crisis, help 120,000 children – Johan Nel

In the rural regions of South Africa, an astonishing number of schools continue to rely on pit toilets or latrines, which essentially consist of 3-metre-deep holes in the ground. Pit toilets not only strip pupils of their dignity and compromise hygiene, but they also pose significant risks to their safety. Tragically, there have been cases of young children losing their lives after falling into these treacherous latrines including a four-year-old Eastern Cape girl, Langalam Viki that was found in a pit toilet in June this year. Seeking to address this pressing issue, Breadline Africa, a non-profit organisation, has taken up the mission to install 4000 flush toilets in schools across South Africa. Johan Nel, Marketing Manager from Breadline Africa told BizNews that  they wanted to place 4000 toilets in rural South Africa helping 120 000 children. – Linda van Tilburg

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Listen to the interview


Excerpts from the interview

908 schools still have pit latrines 

The Department of Basic Education has stated, I think last year, that there are still about 908 schools, primary and secondary schools, and even early child development centres (ECDs) where the children are forced to make use of pit toilets on a daily basis, and that accounts for about half a million children that have no other option than to use pit toilet facilities. Breadline Africa has, for 30 years, worked in school infrastructure, and we’ve taken a very specific focus on addressing the pit toilet problem this year.

The 908 schools have an average of 500 children per school that this affects. We can’t possibly address every single one of these schools, but we feel like we can address about 240 schools. That is our objective, that we want to change the toilet situation for children at 240 schools, and we can do that with the support of corporate South Africa and South Africans and individuals alike.”

 Focus is on Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape

Most of these toilets we have found are in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. There are some in Limpopo, but it’s really KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape that are the focus areas. In many of these areas, the access to water or municipal water lines is a problem. Just getting to the school, they are so far and rural and far removed that it’s hard for any infrastructure work to take place there. What we’ve done is we have tried to find appropriate solutions for every school. Some schools have absolutely no municipal water systems, some have municipal water connections, but they are not in an adequate state to work with, and we have found different solutions. For example, either low flush toilets that work with septic tanks and seep-away systems, as well as entirely waterless systems that collect waste and then get maintained by draining it out.

Aiming to place 4000 toilets to help 120,000 children 

We want to place 4,000 toilets to help 120,000 children. This really started when we started focusing on rural areas in our ECD work last year, and we worked with some great partner organisations in those areas, and we started to really see the need for proper toilet facilities in the area. Then, we had the case, I think it was February, of the young girl, Langalam Viki, who died in a pit toilet, and for a moment, the country was looking at the problem. We met with Mr. Mark Barnes, who is a prominent businessman in South Africa. He put up his hand to say that he would be very helpful and very willing to donate money and give up his time to do this, and we started connecting with him. We put together a campaign, the Flush Challenge and we just last week placed our first 18 toilets at a project in Kwazulu-Natal.

Some children fear and avoid pit-latrines, many use flush toilets for the first time

It was really just such a sight just to see what the children had to deal with on a daily basis and hear the stories of how they actually fear or avoid using toilet facilities and to see them use flush toilets for many of the small children for the first time in their lives. It was so wonderful because we really believe that besides the danger of a pit toilet where a small child can fall into it and not be heard, this just gives these children the prospect of dignity. It allows them to see what they should consider as a minimum acceptable standard in their life. We believe that is a great way to inspire them also into the future. So, our plan is now that we’ve launched the first one, we are assessing about 30, 40 new and we want to get to 240 and we’re appealing to South Africans and to South African companies and businesses to help us in this effort.

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