Increasing Impact with EkoLakay Public Toilets
SOIL staff member with public toilet
In early 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SOIL began collaborating with the Cap-Haitien Meri (Mayor’s office) to support emergency response efforts for the pandemic. At the request of the Meri, SOIL was asked to provide and manage a public toilet option at the central market in the city to help ensure access to much needed safe sanitation and handwashing. And, while public toilets may seem counterintuitive in warding off a pandemic, the alternative of having no access to sanitation and the possibility of potentially virus-spreading waste to go out untreated into the environment, could have much broader public health implications. Therefore, having access to dignified and clean public toilets provides a much safer alternative to no toilet at all.
Installing public toilets in Cap-Haitien’s market center has been an incredibly impactful initiative for SOIL, as we have been able to provide this critical service and fill the sanitation gap for a large number of people who visit or sell at the market. As risks from the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be waning, we are now in a position to determine what is next for the public toilets. Recently, we’ve received some great feedback from the Meri and their interest is in SOIL continuing to provide and manage the public toilet service in a more permanent capacity.
Over the past couple of years, the public toilet structures in the market have been semi-mobile in construction and located on a concrete platform provided by the Meri. Over this time the toilets were being managed by temporary contract workers, however, more recently, the toilet managers (two out of three positions are filled by women!) have been brought on as full SOIL staff as the demand for the toilets evolved into a longer-term need. The toilets are open during the day, 7 days a week with the market. During special market days (Mondays and Sunday) the toilets get the busiest amount of usage with an average of 160 uses each day! SOIL charges a fee for toilet use (25HTG) that helps to pay the toilet managers and provide waste treatment for the waste. As with our household EkoLakay service, 100% of the waste is safely treated and transformed into compost at our facility outside of Cap-Haitien.
The toilets have assisted in mitigating public health crises, while also providing a safe and clean environment for market goers to relieve themselves, which did not exist before. In fact, in the Cap-Haitien urban area, public toilets are difficult, if not impossible, to come by. Because of this, the Meri would like SOIL to provide a more permanent structure, and has offered support in making this happen by delineating a permanent space that we can use and offering equipment to help clear the area we need. The Meri is also interested in potentially having the service expand into other highly trafficked spaces in the city, including other markets and transport centers.
“The market toilets that SOIL is managing is a result of a close collaboration with the Cap-Haitien mayors. We are encouraged by how they have been received and we continue to work on how to improve and potentially expand this model to other areas of high public traffic.” – Nick Preneta, SOIL Chief Operating Officer
We are excited at the possibility of expanding our service even further and fostering a deeper relationship with Meri Okap. SOIL is planning to continue discussions with the Meri in June after conducting an additional analysis of cost and revenue. Stay tuned for more updates!