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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

Are pit latrines in urban areas of Sub-Saharan Africa performing? A review of usage, filling, insects and odour nuisances

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Anne Nakagiri, Charles B. Niwagaba, Philip M. Nyenje, Robinah N. Kulabako, John B. Tumuhairwe, Frank Kansiime
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-016-2772-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

All authors were involved in the conception of the paper. AN was further involved in data acquisition, analysis interpretation, drafting manuscript and making necessary revisions. PMN, RNK, JBT, CBN and FK reviewed and made comments on the draft manuscripts. All authors reviewed and approved the manuscript for submission.



A pit latrine is the most basic form of improved sanitation which is currently used by a number of people around the globe. In spite of the wide spread use, known successes and advantages associated with pit latrines, they have received little attention in form of research and development. This review focuses on the usage and performance (filling, smell and insect nuisance) of pit latrines in urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and proposes approaches for their improvements and sustainability.


Current pit latrine usage within urban SSA was calculated from Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) water and sanitation country-files. We conducted a literature search and review of documents on pit latrine usage, filling, smell and insect nuisances in urban areas of SSA. Findings of the review are presented and discussed in this paper.

Results and Discussion

Pit latrines are in use by more than half the urban population in SSA and especially among low income earners. An additional 36 million people in urban areas of SSA have adopted the pit latrine since 2007. However, their performance is unsatisfactory. Available literature shows that contributions have been made to address shortfalls related to pit latrine use in terms of science and technological innovations. However, further research is still needed.


Any technology and process management innovations to pit latrines should involve scientifically guided approaches. In addition, development, dissemination and enforcement of minimum pit latrine design standards are important while the importance of hygienic latrines should also be emphasized.
Additional file 1: Table S1. Summary of success and failure attributes of different sanitation technologies used in Sub-Saharan Africa. Table S2. Summary data on pit latrine use in urban areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Table S3. Comparison of 2015 and 2007 pit latrine coverage figures. (DOC 157 kb)
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