The Child-Friendly Latrine Project

Developing improved sanitation solutions in refugee camps

Like many successful design initiatives, the Child-Friendly Latrine Project arose out of the recognition of an inadequately resourced but clear and present need. Every 20 seconds a child dies from the dehydration and depletion of nutrients resulting from diarrhea, which is the second leading cause of death among children under five.

This is a direct consequence of unhygienic conditions that promote the transmission of diseases through fecal-oral routes. In these communities, children are not only the primary victims of this condition, but frequently serve as principal vectors for the diseases and parasites that cause diarrhea. It has been demonstrated that this is often due to the fact that children, with good reason, fear to use the available toilet facilities as intended or to use them at all.

As a result, the sanitation system of the settlement breaks down in critical ways.

1.5 million children die of diarrhoea every year
It is well understood that many of the 1.5 million annual child deaths from diarrhea could be prevented by improving the availability and quality of latrines, which would enable improved and standardized sanitation practices. With this goal in mind, and in consultation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ICONO has worked to advance the design of latrines used in these settings. The material, design, and manufacturing choices for the Child-Friendly Latrine have been guided by this objective.

"We have taken as our point of departure the child’s need to use the toilet without being afraid,” says Peter Bysted, partner at ICONO. “At the same time, we are aspiring to make the latrines as safe and clean as possible through simplicity and the need for minimal maintenance. We have also ensured, through the design, that the latrine can be rapidly deployed in emergencies and disaster areas.”

The fear of falling down into the hole
Conventional latrines in the developing world are squat-based, in most cases because this is the custom in these areas. However, in substandard, ad-hoc, or severely impoverished settlements, a latrine is generally nothing more than a deep pit dug into the earth laid over by a squatting board of concrete or wood. In the best of cases, this arrangement is an unpleasant, unhygienic, and anxiety inducing obstacle; in the worst cases, however, latrines serve as a breeding ground for disease and the setting for opportunistic crime and abuse of vulnerable populations. Children learn quickly to stay away from such places, and to instead seek out unsanctioned areas to relieve themselves.

One of the major reasons why children do not use existing latrines is that they are simply afraid of falling down into the ghastly hole, or, in the imagination of the child, of being the victim of what might come up from the hole.

ICONO solved this problem, for example, by supplying the drain hole with a self-sealing, airtight fixture. We also aim to make it possible for mothers and children to be together at the same time inside the space.

William Carter, The International Federation of Red Cross: “The innovative design from ICONO provides, as far as I can see, the most needed improvements of ‘rapid latrines’ that we are looking for: it is safe and comfortable for children, it can easily be fitted for disabled with a temporary stool – and on top of that it is much easier to keep clean than the present designs of latrines.”

Chris Cormency, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Education Center, UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen: “1.5 million children are dying of diarrhoea every year. Diarrhoea is, in fact, the second leading cause of death among children under 5, globally; it kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and the measles combined. Many of these children's lives could be saved if they had access to improved sanitation.”

ICONO developed the Child-Friendly Latrine on the basis of certain established design criterias:

· As seen from the child's point of view
· Technical criteria (smooth surface, rounded corners, cleanable with only two litres of water).
· Logistics (low weight and stackability for easy transport).
· Easy to empty and to recycle the excrement as fertilizer.

The Child-Friendly Latrine Project won the The Danish Design Award 2016 in the category Healthy Life.