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Shared Sanitation Versus Individual Household Latrines in Urban Slums: A Cross-Sectional Study in Orissa, India

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  • Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom; Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

A large and growing proportion of the global population rely on shared sanitation facilities despite evidence of a potential increased risk of adverse health outcomes compared with individual household latrines (IHLs). We sought to explore differences between households relying on shared sanitation versus IHLs in terms of demographics, sanitation facilities, and fecal exposure. We surveyed 570 households from 30 slums in Orissa, India, to obtain data on demographics, water, sanitation, and hygiene. Latrine spot-checks were conducted to collect data on indicators of use, privacy, and cleanliness. We collected samples of drinking water and hand rinses to assess fecal contamination. Households relying on shared sanitation were poorer and less educated than those accessing IHLs. Individuals in sharing households were more likely to practice open defecation. Shared facilities were less likely to be functional, less clean, and more likely to have feces and flies. No differences in fecal contamination of drinking water or hand-rinse samples were found. Important differences exist among households accessing shared facilities versus IHLs that may partly explain the apparent adverse health outcomes associated with shared sanitation. As these factors may capture differences in risk and promote sanitary improvements, they should be considered in future policy.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Marieke Heijnen, Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom. E-mail: marieke.heijnen@gmail.com

Authors' addresses: Marieke Heijnen, Parimita Routray, and Belen Torondel, Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom, E-mails: marieke.heijnen@gmail.com, parimita.routray@lshtm.ac.uk, and belen.torondel@lshtm.ac.uk. Thomas Clasen, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: thomas.f.clasen@emory.edu.

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