The Golden Poo is a fun and lively way to draw attention to the topic that kills most kids in the world today
Posted by African Press International on October 24, 2012
LONDON, – Enter the dignified portals of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week, and the first thing you will see is a gold-plated turd, resting on a sca rlet silk cushion. It is labelled “The Golden Poo”, and is actually a Japanese good luck charm (a word play on the similarity between the words for “luck” and “poo” in Japanese.)
There is an 1866 cholera poster from the east end of London, where the disease used to be rampant, and a book, dating from 1887, about the city’s first proper sewage system. It was only constructed because a hot summer raised such a stench from the River Thames that MPs threatened to abandon the riverside Houses of Parliament.
As well as money, Unilever has offered its expertise in advertising, the art of getting people to do what you want. One lesson is that whatever you are promoting (handwashing, for instance) should have good associations, not bad. The traditional, hectoring hygiene messages, says Curtis, are quite the opposite. “They say: ‘You dirty person, you didn’t wash your hands with soap. Your children are going to die’.”
So enter SuperAmma (SuperMum), a cartoon character being tested out in South India. Village focus groups have helped choose the most appealing images for SuperAmma and her son. Her little boy washes his hands and grows up healthy, clever and well mannered, becomes a doctor and cherishes his elderly mother. In early trials this positive message seems to be getting positive results.
The toilet uses a pour-flush system, which takes a couple of litres of water, just enough to maintain a water-filled trap in an S-bend, and stop any smell coming back up the pipe. The waste is flushed away down a diagonal pipe and into the pit, where it lands on a wire mesh tray. On a tray below lives a colony of tiger worms, already commonly used in compost systems, and found in most parts of the world. The worms eat and digest the waste so efficiently that there is very little residue. What little there is can be used as fertiliser and is safe to handle.
But how are people going to feel about worms living in their toilet? At the opening of the exhibition it was attracting a lot of attention from the School’s international students. One young man from Kenya was impressed. “For our situation,” he said, “if you have such a thing, and it can easily be set up, even in an urban setting, it would be quite something. People build these small pit latrines or septic tanks in their home and it will keep filling up and you always have the cost of emptying it. But one question might be what happens if these worms develop into butterflies, something like that. You would really need to know how to approach the people and develop key messages about that.”