Flying toilet

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Flying toilet and other waste in a slum in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.

A flying toilet is a facetious name for the use of plastic bags for defecation, which are then thrown into ditches, on the roadside, or simply as far away as possible.

Flying toilets are particularly associated with slums surrounding Nairobi, Kenya, especially Kibera. According to a report from the United Nations Development Programme launched in Cape Town on 9 November 2006, "two in three people [in Kibera] identify the flying toilet as the primary mode of excreta disposal available to them." This contradicts a Kenyan government report which indicates that 99% of Nairobi residents have access to a sanitation service.[1] The UNDP report blames a taboo against bureaucrats and politicians discussing toilets,[2] while others see a reluctance among the Nairobi authorities to formalise what they characterise as an "illegal settlement."[3]

Piles of polyethene bags gather on roofs and attract flies. Some of them burst open upon impact and/or clog drainage systems. If they land on fractured water pipes, a drop in water pressure can cause the contents to be sucked into the water system.[4] People can also be hit by the bags as they are blindly tossed.[5] In the rainy season, drainage contaminated with excrement can enter residences; some children even swim in it.[6] Such close contact leads to fears of diseases such as diarrhoea, skin disorders, typhoid fever and malaria.

The practice of defecating outside, away from one's house, especially in the dark, causes concern for one's personal safety as well, especially among girls and women.[7]

Several non-profit organisations have launched a "Stop Flying Toilets" campaign, using a winged logo and sponsoring races with famous Kenyan marathon runners.[8] The construction of three sanitation blocks containing modern toilets in Kiambiu, a Nairobi slum with 40,000 to 50,000 residents, has reduced the use of flying toilets, and thereby reduced clogging in the drainage system and outbreaks of cholera and diarrhoea. The modern toilets, constructed by Maji na Ufanisi, a non-governmental organisation based in Nairobi, require a fee to use, but have been quite popular. Similar blocks are being planned for Kibera.

In 2009 Rift Valley Railways accused flying toilets thrown at the railway track in Kibera for causing a derailment of a cargo train killing two people[9]

A related concept is the "trucker bomb", described in a media report as the trucking industry practice of urinating into plastic bottles and throwing them from the vehicle as an alternative to stopping the truck or using facilities at rest stops.[10]


  1. ^ article
  2. ^ "The taboo that kills 2 million kids a year". Foreign Policy, 10 November 2006
  3. ^ Betty Tett, assistant minister for housing, quoted in IPS article
  4. ^ "Clean water is a right", The Economist, 9 November 2006
  5. ^ Silas Okoth, chairman of the Kiambiu Usafi (Cleanliness in Kiambiu) Group, quoted in IPS article
  6. ^ Teresia Kamene, resident of Matopeni, quoted in IPS article
  7. ^ Vincent Njuguna, project officer at the Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS) based in Nairobi, quoted in IPS article
  8. ^ Maharaj, David. "Squalor everywhere, but still this is a neighborhood" Los Angeles Times. 16 July 2004.
  9. ^ Daily Nation, 22 December 2009: ‘Flying toilets’ to blame for crash
  10. ^ Llanos, Miguel (2 June 2005). Urine trouble, some states warn truckers. Retrieved 17 June 2012.

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