People who are hard-pressed in public often have no option but to defecate in full view of passers-by. The urge to ease oneself often comes without much warning. A visitor to the city of Douala who needs to use a public toilet might have to return to their hotel or just hold it for as long as possible. Inhabitants who find themselves in another area of the city may have to rush back home or are forced to respond to nature’s call in inappropriate places.
Take the case of Akwa, Douala’s commercial heartbeat. The embarrassment that this lack causes is better imagined than experienced. This is more noticeable in garages or motor-parks, public schools, markets, bus and train terminals, public squares and some public buildings where there are no or few functional, but poorly kept toilets. Douala has few but very poorly maintained outdoor toilets that discourage patronage, thus promoting a surge in the incidence of infectious diseases and other woeful sanitary conditions.
It is worth noting that in some neighbourhoods like Mambanda, ‘Village’ and parts of New-Bell, where house owners have not provided good toilets, tenants defecate in full view of neighbours. This sounds like a small issue, but it does matter. The result of inadequate outdoor toilets is that visitors with no choice are uncomfortable and might be obliged to return home early.
Over the years, Douala, which is underprovided in terms of public toilets, has not seen any urgency in improving the situation until recently. Thanks to government’s Water Sanitation Programme, some 10,000 latrines will be constructed across the region. The information was disclosed during a meeting of stakeholders with the Littoral and South West Regional Delegates of Water and Energy in Douala recently. In line with this effort, the Douala City Council is due to begin the construction of 16,000 toilets in the city.
In the view of many, existing public toilets are poorly used because there are no sustained information, education and sensitisation campaigns to generate awareness. There is therefore urgent need for cleanliness and to bring about much-needed behavioural changes to turn this everyday public amenity to an object of civic pride.