Toiling for toiletsBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5027 (Published 15 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5027
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Robert Chambers of the Institute of Development Studies is quoted as
saying that he knows of no instance where an incentive has been provided
by Governments in the developing countries for construction of toilets.
This is not so: in Zimbabwe in the early years after Independence, and
during the previous years before 1980, support kind (cement)was provided
to rural folk to build the so-called Blair toilet. This improved
ventilated pit latrine was developed by Dr Peter Morgan at the Blair
Institute in the 1970's. (1) It is a simple construction which requires no
great amount of building skill, and is very effective.
Sadly, mention of the Blair toilet, which has contributed much to the well
-being of many ordinary rural Zimbabweans, was brought into disrepute by
President Mugabe in diatribes against ex-PM Tony Blair (no relation)!
However the last word on the subject must go to Dr Charl Oettle:
Ode to the Blair Toilet (or: Privy Paean)
By Charl Oettle, 1982
You may sit upon this privy
Looking neat and clean and spivvy
And may wonder where the flies and odours went
Yes, the whole place smells of jasmine
And each fly is now a has-been
They've been flummoxed by the privy with the vent.
In the old days every toilet
(Though one tried so hard to foil it)
Smelled and reeked and ponged enough to make one faint,
And the flies bred out in dozens
With their uncles, aunts and cousins
And to use such privies one need be a saint.
Any other lesser mortal
As he staggered through the portal
Would break out in language loud and short and strong,
And to atavistic howls
He'd evacuate his bowels
Swatting flies and holding noses in the pong.
But these troubles now are ended
As the privy has been vented
And it's looking rather good and clean and fresh (tra la la);
In the sun the vent gets hotter,
And it sucks out quite a lotter
Smells and flies that bump their heads against the mesh.
Having flown so quick and nimbly
Up the hot and foetid chimbly
Now their brains and hopes are dashed and will is spent,
And they die, now ten, now twenty,
In their cesspit horn of plenty -
Vindication for the privy with the vent!
(1) New Scientist, 1 October 1987, p.65
Competing interests: No competing interests