> URBAN COMMUNITIES   >    > --Is water treated in any of the cities before it is piped to peoples   >     homes?      Not when I was in Honduras, and I doubt that has changed. To be    sure, you might want to check a good basic travel guide, such as    "Central America on a Shoestring" by Lonely Planet. (Actually, you    might find this info on the Lonely Planet website under Honduras.) I    know that for some other countries they mention the few cities where    the water is treated. I would be very surprised, though, if they    progressed that much in Honduras.      > --Is water piped into the house for toilets, showers, and washing dishes   >     or are some or all of these facilities located outside the house?      It varies a lot, although they are more often inside than out. Even    when they are "outside", they are still attached in a sense. Except    for the poorest houses in Honduras, most have some sort of enclosed    yard or courtyard surrounded by a adobe, brick, concrete block or    other wall. The toilet and/or shower could be stalls outside the    house proper, but inside the small walled area. This outdoor area    really functions as part of the house/living area. It's a tropical    climate, so living space can be outside. It just has to be enclosed    by the wall to make it private.       The most common thing that might be done outside is washing dishes,    which may be done at the pila. Some houses do not have a kitchen sink.      > --Is water drawn from the pila for use or, besides the washing of clothes   >     in the separate compartment, are items ever washed in the pila?      The pila is a storage compartment and water from it will be used for    other purposes when the water lines are turned off. ('No hay agua' is    a common phrase one hears...) Sometime children will be given a bath    in the pila. However, one has to be pretty sure that the water won't    go off so that you can change the water once the bath is done. (A    housemate of mine once decided to empty and clean our pila just    before the time they usually turned the water off for the day. The    result was no water until the following morning.) The other thing is    that dishes may be washed on the washboard above the pila. They    wouldn't really be washed "in" it, however. Remember, a pila is    usually 18-30 inches deep.       > --When you say that people dont boil the water for drinking does this mean    >     everyone, even people with access to a stove to boil the water on?      Correct. Basically everyone has access to either a mud stove or a    cheap kerosene burner. Fuel, however, costs money (or time if you are    cutting your own firewood). People who are concerned about good water    are educated and usually have enough money to get bottled water.    There are bottled water companies that deliver big five gallon    bottles of purified (filtered) water in the cities. When I was in    Honduras this was something only the wealthy did. I suspect that the    purchase of bottled water is now more middle class.       I was in Ecuador    last fall and was amazed by the availability of good bottled water in    sizes ranging from .25 liter to 2 gallon bottles. Stores had huge    shelves of the stuff and the middle class bought it up. (We were    staying in an apartment and cooking our own food. Bottled water came    to about 25 percent of our weekly food bill. If anything, I would    think the percentage would be higher for local people in that we did    splurge on some imported items.) We had previously been in Ecuador    in 1985 and bottled drinking water was no where to be found in the    stores (there were companies with the big five gallon bottles to    deliver). All that one could buy back then was mineral water -    carbonated with a heavy mineral content and taste (sort of like club    soda). It was quite a change in a little over 12 years. Honduras may    have gone through a similar change. I've heard that bottled drinking    water is more popular in every country where there is a water    problem. Even in Merida, Venezuela - where I was in January, 1995 and    where you can drink the water - people bought a lot of bottled water.      > --Are stoves heated by electricity or some other power source?  How   >     reliable is the power source?      Electricity is not common because electricity is not reliable,    especially in the dry season when water levels at the hydroelectric    dams go down, cutting down generating capacity. Then the electric    company goes into rolling brown-outs (i.e. intentional black-outs)    cutting off power to various regions and various parts of the big    cities for several hours at a time. No part is immune to brown-outs    - the rich neighborhoods get it too. The rich, however, have    generators to use during brown-outs.       For the middle & upper class, the most common cooking fuel is bottled    natural gas with portable tanks. Once the tank is empty you take it    in to the gas company and get another one. Perhaps there is delivery    for the wealthy.  For the poorer folks, small kerosene burners are    common. Most of these are (or were when I was there) made in    (mainland) China. The used a wick system to draw the kerosene up from    a tank at the bottom. The tank held about a quart of kerosene. The    stoves cost about ten US dollars, so weren't too expensive. I    remember that I went through about a gallon of kerosene a month and    that it cost about two dollars a gallon. As a single person, I didn't    cook as much as a family would, but then I didn boil drinking water    plus I often heated water for a warm bucket bath.       The other common "poor person" fuel was wood, but not very much in    the city. The hills around the cities had mostly been denuded of good    fuel trees within walking distance. The people who would have used    wood didn't have the money to pay for it, had someone thought to try    trucking it in from elsewhere. So, simple keresene burners were the    cooking unit of choice for the poor folks in the cities.      > --Do you have any idea how old the water/wastewater system is (pipes,   >     pumps, etc.)?      No idea, but I would guess no older than the 1920s in the central    cities. Most a lot newer. It's important to remember that the urban    areas have experienced massive urban growth since the 1950s, with the    1970s onward being the really big time. Hence, most neighborhoods are    rather young so the infrastructure must be young too. Of course, that    doesn't mean that it was installed well... One problem, more in rural    areas, was the use of PVC pipe for running water lines *above* the    ground between houses and from the source to the town. Apparently    sunlight eventually causes PVC to break down so the water systems    have a limited life. I don't recall seeing above ground PVC in urban    areas, but it was common in rural areas. In someplaces along the road    there will be several miles of 4 inch thick PVC running along the    road to the next village.      > --Do flush toilets always get enough water for flushing?      Depends. In someplaces and at sometimes of day, water pressure can be    too low for a good strong flush. Generally, though, flush was    dependent on the storage tank in the toilet and if that had had    enough time to fill the flush was fine. The bigger problem is that the    waste pipes are often smaller than they should be, hence toilet paper    goes in the garbage can and not in the toilet. Paper can clog up the    pipes.      > --Is any of the wastewater from homes treated?  If not, where is its   >     final destination? I've read that the Choluteca River in    >     Tegucigalpa is polluted from sewage?  What did you think of the   >     condition of the rivers in Honduras that you saw?      Nothing was treated that I know of, and I doubt it is now. It got    dumped right in the rivers. I knew a Peace Corps Volunteer, a civil    engineer, who helped put in sewage systems in some towns north of    Santa Barbara. The towns were beside the Ulua River and that is where    the sewage went (which at least got it out of town). Generally, I    would not have wanted to swim in or even touch most bodies of water    in Honduras. However, if one got high enough above the population or    remote enough, the water would be quite clean. Generally, though,    rivers and streams stank and sometimes they stank quite strongly. The    presidential palace in Tegucigalpa sits along the Choluteca River    right beside one of the main bridges over the river. I walked across    that bridge many times, and on real hot days I wondered how the    president could stand living there. Of course, I now realize that he    had air-conditioning! (And probably several generators for when the    power was off.)      > --How do poor people in the city without access to running water deal with   >     such things as going to the bathroom and "wiping", washing dishes   >     and clothes, and obtaining safe drinking water?      As to going to the bathroom, one just finds a place in an alley or    whereever. For water, usually there would be a public spigot someplace    nearby (within a quarter mile or less) and people could go there,    stand in line, and carry water back home. That was fine for dishes, a    little washing, and drinking. Clothes were probably washed in the    river. (Yes,the same rivers I mentioned above.) By the way, you said    "safe" drinking water. There was no "safe" water for these people.    The water that came through the pipes was certainly better than the    streams, but it wasn't necessarily safe, depending upon how high and    remote the source was. (Some, actually, was quite pure, but it    totally depended on where the source was located.)      > --Is it common practice for people to wash their hands after going to the    >     bathroom or before preparing food?  In public facilities, is there   >     water available for washing hands after going to the bathroom?      I don't think handwashing was as common as in the USA, but it there    was a growing awareness of the need for it through sanitation    campaingns, development work, etc. I would suspect it is more common    now. Generally, if there is a public bathroom there is also a sink    nearby. However, if the water has not been on for four hours and the    toilet is full and smelly, that means there is no water in the sink    for washing either. 

   > RURAL COMMUNITIES   >    > --How safe are the rivers or wells that water is drawn from?  If this   >     water is unsafe, is it because of contamination form excrement?      As I mentioned yesterday, water is generally not safe to drink (which    doesn't mean that people don't drink it). Contamination is from    excrement, which could be from people or livestock or both. I    remember visiting the town of Moroceli for a weekend during my    training. A stream ran through town and women were washing clothes in    it. *Downstream* other women were filling buckets of water,    presumably for cooking and drinking at home. The soap may have helped    kill off some of the microbes, but still that didn't seem to be a   particularly intelligent or healthy practice. The second group of    women were only about a hundred feet downstream and from the well-   worn paths, it appeared that these were the normal locations for    washing clothes and getting water. The washing place did have a lot    of good rocks for drying clothes on, which may have been part of the    reason for the location.      There are exceptions to the unsafe water rule. These are places where    the watersource is higher than any local human and/or livestock    population. Some of the towns way up in the mountains had good water    for this reason. However, one could also find good water in    unlikely places. I spent Easter Week (a big holiday time) in 1983 in    the Garifuni village of San Antonio along the north coast, just west    of the port of Trujillo. I and a number of other PCVs went there to    visit a Peace Corps couple who worked in the town. The water was safe    to drink in San Antonio. San Antonio was right on the beach, but a    steep jungled mountain rose up right behind the town - about a mile    inland. The town's water source was up on the mountain and, due to    the topography, there were no people or livestock above the water    source. It was great tasting water, and we PCVs from the interior    drank gallons of it. It was such a change after months of drinking    boiled water.      > --Are pit latrines common or do people usually go behind the closest tree?     >     Again, what do  people use to "wipe" with and do they wash their   >     hands afterward or before preparing food?      Pit latrines were becoming increasingly common while I was there and    are probably more so now. We had Peace Corps volunteers whose job was    to promote the building of latrines. A lot of latrines were built at    rural primary schools to "indoctrinate" the next generation. Many    rural areas have piped-in water, but not many have any sort of sewage    system, hence few flush toilets. However, one can be surprised by    finding flush toilets in unusual places.      If there is no flush toilet, people will go behind a tree, although    not necessarily the closest one. That is, there may be an area which    is the unofficial bathroom. San Antonio, the garifuni town on the    beach that I mentioned above, had no sewage system. When people had    to go, they simply walked out of town into the forest a short way,    usually on the east side of town. Of course, that's what we used    while there, too. There was no problem with build-up of waste,    however. Liquids, of course, simply sank into the ground (we were    just a few feet above sea level and well below the water supply). As    to solids, the pigs ate them. As in most places in Honduras, the pigs    ran loose and human waste was part of their diet. I still vividly    recall one time there when a pig actually followed me out of town. He    saw where I was going and knew what I was up to. He politely stood    about 30 feet away while I squatted and did my business. After I    finished, we walked passed each other - me on my way back to town and    him on his way to lunch, ;-).       As to wiping, toilet paper is sold in even the smallest pulperias    (mom & pop stores) and is easily obtainable. The cheapest grade (very    thin) cost around U.S. fifteen cents a roll. It was made in Honduras.    many people used toilet paper. Many people also used other forms of    paper. Newspaper was very common as tabloid newspapers were thick,    cheap, and sold throughout the country. A lot of times when I was in    rural bathrooms or outhouses, there were be some old newspaper sheets    stuck on a nail on the wall. The other common paper was old school    notebooks. Kids would go through a lot of cheap wirebound notebooks    in schools, so most education was based on copying down stuff from    the board (no textbooks). Old notebooks found their way to the    outhouse. (At least I hope they were old and not the ones the kids    needed for next week's test.) Otherwise, I know people did use leaves    in remote areas and that there were particular kinds of preferred    leaves, but I don't know much more than that. I never got that rural.      (Aside: The use of leaves makes me laugh. As a teenager, my younger    brother was out in the woods one day and after doing his business    grabbed some nearby leaves to wipe with. They were poison ivy. He got    it all the way up his rectum. When my mother took him to the doctor,    the doctor laughed hysterically for five minutes before he could calm    down to treat him. My brother had to take an oral medicine to ease    the pain. So, one does want to be careful on what type of leaves one    uses!)      Getting back to your question. Hand-washing was being taught in    school and I think the message was getting across. Also there were    public health messages on the radio, etc. Some people washed their    hands and others didn't. The percentage is probably improving, but    I'm sure it's worse than here. Of course, handwashing is not    universal here. I'm amazed at how many other people here at the    university (including highly educated faculty) leave the restroom    without washing their hands. Of course, I'm only speaking of men - I    don't have much experience in the lady's room. My mother drilled hand-   washing in to me when I was a preschooler, so I can't imagine walking    out of the bathroom without doing it.      BTW, back to latrines. I was in Ecuador in October/November and was    interested to see many many concrete block latrines by rural houses    with the large initials of a government agency (I can't remember which    one) painted on the side. There were hundreds of them visible from    the main highways that ran through rural areas. Of course, the agency    may not have bothered to go too far off the main road. But, it was    impressive.

> > RURAL COMMUNITIES > > --How safe are the rivers or wells that water is drawn from? If this > water is unsafe, is it because of contamination form excrement? > --Are pit latrines common or do people usually go behind the closest tree? > Again, what do people use to "wipe" with and do they wash their > hands afterward or before preparing food? > --What are latrines like, for instance, what materials are they made of? > Is the type of latrine used in rural areas different from that > used in more urban areas? Are the contents of the latrines pumped > out or are they just abandoned when they're full? > --Is building sanitary facilities such as latrines considered communist > like boiling drinking water? Are attitudes different in rural > areas compared to urban areas? > > > OTHER STUFF > > --In your opinion, are peoples habits concerning sanitation hard to change > or is change more hampered by the whims of elitist leaders? Is > the approach or interest of the international community in matters > of sanitation in Honduras limiting improvement or making things better? > --Where have you travelled in Central America? I know that you mentioned > Guatemala? How is sanitation in these places different or similar to > the situation in Honduras? > --During what period of time were you in Central America? Were you in the > Peace Corps the whole time or did you spend some of it just as > a visitor? > > > Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! > > --Kathy Ivy > > > > > > > > On Fri, 1 May 1998, Don Moore wrote: > > > > > > Hi. I'm a civil engineering student at the University of Washington > > > (Seattle, WA) and am doing a project on sanitation in Honduras. I'm > > > having a hard time finding much specific information on the subject. Your > > > Web page has been one of the few places where I've found such topics > > > as taking a shower, boiling water, and going to the bathroom in Honduras > > > > Yeah, going to the bathroom is not exactly hot content, :-). > > > > > are discussed. I was wondering, if you have the time, if you could answer > > > a few of my questions either via e-mail or over the phone? > > > > Sure, either way is fine. E-mail, of course, is easily done. If you > > want to call, a good time is at 2 p.m. (Central - 12 Noon in > > Washington state) when I am normally in my office. E-mail me first to > > confirm a day if you want to be sure to catch me. The office phone is > > (319) 326-9564. > > > > Don Moore moore@acc.mcrest.edu > > > > > > > > > >