Eighty percent of Dar es Salaam's population lives in unregulated settlements, forced to rely on smelly and hazardous pit latrines. "The Gulper" is transforming the way those latrines are emptied, improving the health of the whole community.
Only ten percent of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's biggest city, is connected to the central sewage system. Eighty percent of the city's population lives in settlements that have sprung up without planning permission. They rely on a huge number of smelly, dirty and unsafe latrines. But a solution is at hand. Meet "The Gulper." These motor tricycles, and the equipment they carry, are transforming the way pit latrines are emptied here. In the past, sewage often ended up contaminating water supplies, particularly during the rainy season.
ERNEST MAMUYA [Environment Health Officer]
You wouldn't get surprised if you were finding fecal matter rolling with the storm water. It was common. In those areas, we had a problem of widespread cholera and other infections related to the disposal of waste.
The Gulper is designed to reach customers who live down even the narrowest streets.
We have gloves, masks, helmets, and gum boots. Then, when we arrive, we assess the toilet for any risks.
Many of the latrines are unsafe because of the old way of emptying them.
We used to completely demolish the toilet to drain it. The owners would get upset because it was completely broken.
Julius used to earn his living this way, and saw how dangerous it could be.
There was one time when our colleague died because the toilet collapsed in on him and covered him completely.
It's The Gulper's pump that has made life safer and cleaner for Julius. It's not motorized, so it's easy to maintain. It's cheap and, above all, it's effective -- he can clean up to six latrines a day. All the sewage is removed, and very little spills on the ground.
We have a container that can hold fifty liters. We usually drain into this, and when it is full, we put it on a motorbike. Then we take it to a place specially designated to pour it all away, and that is that.
There's another way the Gulper has made life sweeter for Julius: he's paid better. Yet customers pay less for the Gulper's services. And it's this affordability that's key to improving health for everyone living in the unplanned settlements. The more sewage that gets dumped centrally, the less risk there is to local people. Cholera is not the only disease in decline.
The Gulper is getting rid of intestinal diseases: strongoloids, hookworms, tapeworms. There's a reduction of typhoid, amoebic dysentery. If the coverage increases, we are sure of reducing these infections quite a lot.