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Public sanitary conveniences needed for a healthy environment

Published:Saturday | January 31, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In recent times, some visitors to Jamaica have registered complaints on travel websites such as TripAdvisor and that sanitary conveniences in Jamaica's towns are few and far between, or are not very clean.

An advisory on noted: "Don't expect to find convenient toilets if you are travelling around Jamaica ... even in built-up resort areas, public toilets are not always available and cleanliness can be an issue."

The issue of inadequate restroom facilities is not limited to Jamaica. The Alliance for Healthy Cities, an international network of municipal governments, central governments, academia, international agencies and other interests, noted in a document titled "Recognition of best practises in public sanitary conveniences", that the provision of public toilets in transportation terminals, parks and recreational areas, marketplaces and other public locations is not only a convenience to the itinerant public, but also a service that can promote a cleaner and more healthful urban environment.

The organisation also stated that a lack of public sanitary conveniences results in discomfort for many individuals and may "to some extent, discourage some visitors and residents alike from long periods of activity outside the home or, in the case of visitors, outside the hotel" and that "a lack of public sanitary conveniences may result in some degree of fouling of public places, intrusion on patrons' toilets in commercial establishments by non-patrons, or both".

"WHO (World Health Organization) considers it to be a basic human right that individuals have access to improved sanitation facilities at the household level. But inevitably, people also need access to sanitary conveniences when they travel, work, study, play, shop, and conduct other activities away from home," the Alliance noted.

In Jamaica, the Roads and Works departments of the respective parish councils are responsible for the proper maintenance of all public sanitary conveniences, under the Public Health Act. However, the Alliance for Healthy Cities, notes that the provision of public toilets poses many challenges to municipalities, including ensuring that public sanitary conveniences are well maintained in order to prevent toilets, sinks etc. from being out of service and to ensure hygienic conditions of the facilities and environs" at all times.

"Unless facility operations are subsidised from other sources, this may necessitate user fees - a policy that has to be balanced with the principle of equitable access to services," the organisation said.