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Toilets & Pit Latrines in Gambia

Travellers' Diarrhoea     
WC's / Flush Toilet Lavatories:
The Gambia's toilet and bathing facilities in and around the hotels and tourist areas are usually of a decent standard where you will normally find soap and toilet paper being supplied. This is not always the case with some night clubs so do be prepared and carry extra tissues with you when going out. As a general rule the more local the place the dirtier the toilets.

Traditional Pit Latrines:
Squat toilets or pit latrines are used by over 70% of the ruralPit latrine population of Gambia and furthermore they prefer to use water instead of toilet paper. There are generally 3 types of pit latrine. The first is the flush type in which one would squat with your feet on a concrete slab or porcelain-type foot-stand and later flush your waste with a bucket of water. While the second type, which is more prevalent up-country, consists of a hole in the ground with a large underground hole.

The third type is the so called Ventilated Improved Pit latrine (VIP). Often burnt ash is added to the smaller types to reduce the putrid smell. A small majority of the urban population in Gambia, about 55% (2007 est.), have now moved away from Pit latrines and are now using flush lavatories with septic tanks which are emptied periodically of solid waste.

It is very important when building one in the rural areas to keep it at least 15 metres away from the nearest borehole or well and should be at least 3 metres deep. Some Gambians build 2 latrines next to each other and when one is full it is covered over and the other is then used. When both a full the first can be re-opended and the formerly human waste is now compost which can then be used in the farm as fertiliser.

Meaning of Toilet & Bathroom:
To avoid confusion when you need to relieve yourself, use the word “toilet” to express both the object and its abode. The word “bathroom” is quite literal in The Gambia—it is the place you go for a bath. If you say bathroom when you desperately need a toilet, you are sure to be in trouble! In urban areas, toilets are most common in business and hotels; up-country, a hole in the ground, lined with cement (called a pit latrine) is usually the way to go. Beware that most toilets do not function correctly in except in the most upscale of establishments. If you will be away from the hotel for a few hours, it is advisable to bring your own toilet paper, as Gambians use water and their left hand.

Composting Toilets:
In some of the eco-lodges they are now using composting toilets as a more environmentally friendly way of disposing of human waste and conserving on water supplies as well as minimising detrimental impacts on the local ecology.

Bathing Local Style:
In the rural areas the vast majority wash using a water filled steel or plastic bucket, soap and a loofah (loofer) made from the dried fibres of the baobab, Adansonia digitata, which is a sour gourd called booy. In the Kombos people either use the bucket style or showers. It is virtually unheard of for a Gambian to lie down in a bathtub full of water and bathe ones-self. The loofer is called Njampeh which is pretty tough on the skin.
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