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Breadline Africa Makes Headway In Eliminating Pit Toilets In South Africa

  • South Africa’s pit latrine crisis currently impacts an estimated 500 000 school children.
  • Breadline Africa has installed 66 flushing toilets across five KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) schools since June, changing the lives of 1 355 children. 

In their fight against South Africa’s pit latrine crisis, South African Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), Breadline Africa, has set out to impact 120 000 children across 240 schools by installing 4 000 toilets in the next 18 to 24 months. More broadly, their pit toilet replacement campaign is aimed at achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (Target 6.2), of “providing access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and to end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women, girls, and those in vulnerable situations”. 

Research conducted by Stellenbosch University Hospital reveals a disturbing reality: in South Africa, approximately 30% of young girls face period poverty, caused primarily by a lack of access to essential menstrual products and sanitation facilities. This results in young girls missing school approximately four to six days each month, which is an annual loss of roughly 60 learning days. This poses a significant threat to their educational prospects and limits their future opportunities in an already unequal society.

“The pit latrine crisis is an ongoing, pressing issue in our country. At Breadline Africa, our goal is to raise R156 million towards this cause over the next two years as part of our ‘Flush Challenge’”, says Marion Wagner, CEO of Breadline Africa. “While we experience a nationwide outcry when a child dies in a pit toilet, real steps towards addressing the issue remains a challenge. It is for this reason, amongst many, that we decided to do something about it. And the change is already in motion.

“Impact and change cannot happen in isolation. It is going to take the combined efforts of government, the private sector, and non-profits to eliminate pit toilets in South Africa. Together with our corporate partner, Mark Barnes, we have raised more than R3 million to provide hygienic toilets in five KZN primary schools in the last five months, but much more remains to be done.” 

Since June, Breadline has installed 66 eco-friendly, Envirosan low-flush toilet systems, 18 urinals and handwashing facilities at these primary schools, thereby entrenching their “Flush Challenge” campaign in the hearts and minds of corporate and public South Africa. Current beneficiaries’ feedback of the new facilities ranges from improved privacy and dignity, being able to drink when thirsty without the dread of using the pit toilets, to not having to wait in long queues during break times to access bathroom facilities. Breadline also ensure that no unsafe pit remains open after they leave a site.

During October, the Breadline team engaged the children, teachers and parents from the schools that recently received toilets, and the impact that the new facilities have made in these schools has been nothing short of life-changing. Most of the educators and parents believe that the toilets have the potential to increase the overall well-being and educational experience of children through improved access to safe and hygienic toilets, with some individuals saying that the toilets had become a symbol of hope for the future.

Participants were asked how having flushing toilets made them feel and responses ranged from a renewed sense of protection and safety, to relief at being safe from snakes and other hazards. “We feel a sense of cleanliness – free from concerns about the transmission of germs,” said Banele Ngcobo from Insuze Gcwensa Primary School. Children impacted expressed their gratitude and relief for the new facilities, and girls from Grade 4 onwards received a pack of reusable sanitary towels donated by both the Department of Basic Education and Breadline Africa. 

Mr Barnes added: “We now have practical, installed evidence that we can build a durable, flushing toilet solution to replace the scourge of pit latrines. Our next immediate goal is to raise R30 million from corporate South Africa to fund further momentum beyond that already achieved, to go national, to get this done, once and for all.” 

To support this life-saving campaign and make a donation, contact Breadline at operations@breadlineafrica.org today. Qualifying donations are tax deductible and Breadline Africa is a level one BBBEE socio-economic development partner. You can also visit www.breadlineafrica.org, and find Breadline on social media @BreadlineAfrica on Twitter, @breadlineafrica on Instagram, and Breadline Africa on Facebook.