In spite of medical help from the nearby BRA clinic, which provides bi-annual vaccinations and vitamins, Batey Santa Rosa is considered one of the least healthy communities in the province of Monte Plata. Dysentery and parasites such as roundworm and parasitic amoeba are common in untreated adults and children, and this problem will only worsen as fewer latrines remain functional. Untreated children are especially vulnerable to these parasites because they have a tendency to put their fingers in their mouths and rarely wash their hands. These parasites absorb the calories and nutrients needed for growth, and sometimes children have such a large infestation of roundworms that their stomachs appear bloated. By constructing latrines in the community, we will not only improve the quality of life for those who previously didn’t have access to latrines, but also prevent this spread of disease and parasites. Ultimately, our goal is to improve the sanitation in Batey Santa Rosa so the community can focus on economic development rather than problems with community health.
At the end of February 2012, a travel team returned to perform a full assessment of Batey Santa Rosa, gathering both technical and demographical data. The community consists of around 300 people who share 30 latrines, many of which have been working for over 20 years. However, they needed 15 more latrines to cover the entire community, which will help limit the spread of fecal-born parasites and disease. While there is an abundance of community volunteers, they lacked the finances to buy the materials and the know-how to improve upon their current latrine design to make it more safe and sanitary. The old latrines primarily consisted of a hole around 15-25 feet deep and a surrounding superstructure made of corrugated metal, cheap lumber, and concrete. This latrine design works well and has a long life-span, so a completely new design was not necessary. However, there were still problems that need to be addressed: venomous spiders and snakes enter at night, water pools around the base of the seat, door hinges often fail, the lack of a ventilation pipe leads to smell, and disease-carrying bugs are attracted because there are no seat covers.
During our first implementation trip we constructed three latrines and over the next six months the community successfully built three latrines on their own, using the skills and knowledge that we taught them. The second implementation project was a one week trip where six students and two mentors inspected the latrines that they had built and then constructed three additional latrines; this brings the total number up to nine latrines, three shy of the project’s goal. We will return to inspect the final three latrines that the community constructs and bring the project to a close as we begin the process of transitioning to our new project in Ghana.