Why outdoor bathrooms and latrines still matter

Wednesday October 9 2019

A pit-latrine will come in handy when you have

A pit-latrine will come in handy when you have many guests. Photo by build it international 


You may have noticed that many homeowners are abandoning plans of constructing outdoor bathrooms as well as latrines. But why are outdoor bathrooms slowly phasing out in urban areas? It is mostly due to space issues, says Robert Gisembo, director at Gamma Partnership Limited, a civil engineering consultancy company.
“These days, land is quite expensive. For this reason, an individual will only buy a piece of land they can afford, build there, and afterwards, install every facility inside the house,” Gisembo says.

The exception is in rural areas where outdoor bathrooms and latrines are still common. “There is still abundant land in rural areas unlike urban centres where the land is expensive and constrained,” Gisembo adds.

Regardless, Gisembo says it is important for urban home owners to incorporate plans of an outdoor bathroom and latrine when they embark on a building project.

The need
For about three weeks, Sharon Nakalema did not have running water in her apartment in Najeera, Wakiso district. The water had been cut off during repairs of rusted water pipes in the neighbourhood.

“I had to carry bathing water into the bathroom using a bucket. And, many times, this bathing water was never sufficient enough for also cleaning the bathroom floor and wall tiles.
Eventually, I started noticing a stuffy smell emerging from the bathroom,” Nakalema shares.

The businesswoman says she would not have used the inside bathroom in the first place. But, because she does not have an outside bathroom, she did not have a choice.


“I think the stuffy smell emerged because of using little water in a closed setting,” she says.

Allan Ogwaro of Ogwaro Consulting Engineers in Tororo, says most people see the need for outside bathrooms and latrines when their piped running water is cut off. Regardless, of whether one has constant supply of water or not, Ogwaro says these facilities should always be there in a home.

You can have a bathtub outdoor. Photo by
You can have a bathtub outdoor. Photo by onekindesign

“Outside bathrooms are a great option when you are tired of using indoor bathrooms. But also, you have the luxury of bathing under the sun which is a rather a great feeling, and therapeutic,” Ogwaro says.

Ogwaro adds that the advantage with outside bathrooms is that their open design allows easy circulation of air and sunlight which combination is ideal for killing any germs that may be present in the bathroom.

For some home owners, they see outside bathrooms as more convenient for guests to use.

Having a latrine
A mother of two who preferred not to disclose her name says when her husband was planning on constructing a family home, she insisted on him incorporating a latrine into the construction plans as well.

“The reason why I insisted on having a latrine is because it would act as a disposal ground for my used sanitary towels as well as diapers, especially in circumstances when we had babies in the home,” she says.

But also, she adds that the latrine would be ideal if there was no piped water inside the house.

For extended families, outside bathrooms and latrines are also recommendable, says Gisembo.

“If you are many in a home, both facilities are convenient as some members can alternatively use the outside bathroom and latrines, and, in a way, this saves time for all,” he says.

Ogwaro advises that traces of urine on the floor should always be cleaned. “Leaving urine on the latrine floor will result into cracks on a cement surface. This happens because urine is acidic.
For this reason, ensure you always clean away that urine,” he says.

Cleaning can be done by scrubbing the cement using water and a little bit of soap. In order to minimise the stench from the latrine, Ogwaro advises that from time to time, one can place a little ash at different corners of the latrine.

What to bear in mind

• The latrine should be at least 10 metres from the main house. This is in order to prevent flies from easily flying from the latrine to the house.
•The latrine should have a vent pipe, a channel, for letting out bad odor from the pit.
•There are different types of pit latrines to consider for construction, for example, one may opt for a ventilated improved pit latrines instead of just any ordinary latrine.