Safety First! Increasing Resilience in SOIL’s Sanitation Service

Photo credit: Julie Jeliazovski

First and foremost, SOIL’s priority is to protect the health of our communities, our workers, and the environment. As such, our composting process has been developed in a way that meets and exceeds the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the safe treatment of waste. At every step of the the way SOIL has collaborated with research institutions from the around the world to develop a safe and durable model. But ensuring safety and health is a continuous process and we continue to proactively assess any and every possible risk through the entire sanitation service chain.

Last month three SOIL staff members participated in a week-long intensive WHO workshop on Sanitation Safety Plans, a new tool for Container-Based Sanitation (CBS) practitioners. We left the conference in London armed with the knowledge of how to develop our own Sanitation Safety Plan and even had a first draft in hand.

What’s an SSP and Why Do We Need One?

First developed by the WHO, a Sanitation Safety Plan (SSP) is a risk management tool for sanitation systems that helps identify and manage public health risks in a systematic way. As Container Based Sanitation solutions pick up steam worldwide as an improved sanitation solution for growing urban communities, it’s important to develop national and international mechanisms that ensure safe implementation. SSPs can be used to inform investment into effective risk mitigation and give the local sanitation authority an assurance that associated risks are being well-managed.

Emmanuel, Deputy Director of SOIL’s office in Northern Haiti, relayed to the rest of the team that “with EkoLakay we’ve been focused on how to resolve the problem of [inadequate] sanitation access. We’ve thought a lot about the issue of public health from the household’s perspective. With this methodology, we can start to think about how to apply those public health principles [even more broadly].” Since the training, SOIL has been doing just that. We’ve been identifying hazards throughout EkoLakay’s service chain, and will be working with local officials to development of a formal strategy to further minimize risks for community members and workers in the sanitation sector alike.

Photo Credit: Lars Schoebitz @larnsce

Collaboration with Local Stakeholders and Global Sanitation Innovators

The SSP is intended to be crafted as a collaboration between sanitation service providers and local stakeholders, most important among them being the national governments in the countries where we work. In the coming weeks SOIL will be sharing what we’ve learned with representatives from the Haitian government at meetings in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. We’re hopeful this collaborative process will further strengthen our relationship, build healthy communication as we work to develop EkoLakay as a resilient sanitation system, and empower government officials to create SSPs for other sanitation systems in the country.

Building a Global Movement for Safer Sanitation Systems

Though most of our week was spent working through exercises and learning from WHO and Cewas presentations, we also took time to exchange ideas with the other CBS groups that were present at the workshop. We discovered more about the differences and similarities between our services and were able to hear directly about the unique challenges groups face in their respective countries.

“Everyone wanted to see how [others were] trying to solve this same problem. Even though all CBS service chains are a little different, all of the groups are interested in taking responsibility for something, human waste, that can cause damage to the environment and public health and transform it into something good: compost, charcoal, energy,” shared Emmanuel.

What’s Next

SOIL is proud to be a part of building a movement for safe, sustainable, and ecologically restorative sanitation systems across the world. We’ll continue to share with you just how we’re doing this and how our Sanitation Safety Plan implementation is going in Haiti, so check back to our blog for the latest news.

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Want to keep reading? Check out these other recent posts on the SOIL blog

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