Simple, Affordable Sanitation Innovation in Durban

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Simple, Affordable Sanitation Innovation in Durban

In 2009, during a foundation trip to South Africa, I met with Neal Macleod, head of Durban Water and Sanitation. Neal is a health expert working to improve sanitation so people no longer have to use pit toilets such as the one in the photo.

Bill Gates with Neal Macleod, head of Durban Water and Sanitation

The typical developing world toilet is just a pit. You dig a hole in the ground, you put up a shack around it, and in some cases you put some kind of seat in there. There may or may not be water or toilet paper. It’s pretty unattractive, particularly the smell.

Neal showed me an improved toilet model called a Ventilated Improved Pit latrine or V.I.P. The Ventilated Improved Pit latrine is set up so that air flows down through the toilet, down into the pit and up through a pipe which dramatically reduces the smell problem. And by putting the right mesh wiring on the top of the pipe, flies can’t get in.


One challenge is that you’ve got to empty the pit. In preparation for emptying a pit latrine, large plastic containers are lined up behind the toilet.

Emptying latrines in Durban

The workers have to wear gloves and protective masks to empty the latrines.

Workers emptying pit latrines in Durban

Workers pump out waste from a pit latrine. They would remove the liquid waste by using a hand pump.

Emptying latrines in Durban

Workers empty the waste from a pit latrine into large plastic containers. Each pit would yield 25-60 of these huge buckets full of waste.

Emptying pit latrines in Durban

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