Sanitation Should be an Urgent Development Concern in Jamaica

This is one of the most important pieces of research that I have done, on behalf of the USAID/OFDA & Habitat for Humanity implemented urban disaster risk reduction project BRACED (Building Resilience And Capacities against emerging Disasters). It is part of the project that never came to fruition partly because of the shame associated with admitting that you do not have a toilet so that you can access the assistance and then the persons contracted to handle this aspect messed up. So, it all fell on ME. I had to do the community education around sanitation with all prospective beneficiaries.

The process led me to lay hold of the training from international experts in sanitation, SARAR Transformacion. The training was SUPER INTENSE and brought together development practitioners, working around water and sanitation from Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana. Little did I know that it would be a training that would change my life and work forever (but that is for another blog).

When we think sanitation, all we think about is “SHIT”. We, for the most part, feel grossed out. But sanitation is WAY more important than we will like to think. Attached to this “non-issue” are issues of:

1. Dignity
2. Gender
3. Health
4. Environmental Sustainability
5. Poverty
6. Emerging Disasters.
7. Water Security
8. Sustainable human settlements

It is no wonder that the UNDP made it a visible sustainable development goal objective.

A few nights ago, in response to the indiscriminate settlement at the Hellshire Beach, the Public Health Director (sic) said on National Television (Television Jamaica) that there was no concern of sewage contamination of the beach, despite reports from one of the illegal occupiers that there is the practice of open defecation. Obviously, the good gentleman has either neglected his training or was too shame that public health inspectors aren’t doing their jobs or he is totally ignorant about routes of contamination, the nutrition cycle and the imminent danger open defecation poses.

Sustainable Development Goal #6 deals with clean water and sanitation and expressly states that nations should ensure availability & sustainable management of water and sanitation for ALL. It is a development concern. It is a matter of human rights and dignity. It is a matter of gender equality and safety and security for our women and girls that we FIX our sanitation problems NOW!!!! It is time we begin to re-imagine SHIT as Sanitation & Hygiene Innovations for Transformation (S.H.I.T).



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