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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 13:07 GMT
Would you pay to pee?
Man outside toilet

Have our towns become public toilets?

One of our listeners, Arnaud Emmanuel in Bamenda, Cameroon wants us to discuss the phenomenon of people urinating and defecating in public places. And so we are doing just that.

What do you do if nature calls while you're out and about? Are there places you can go to relieve yourself with dignity?

Is urinating at the roadside second nature to you? Is there nowhere else to go? What does this do to your environment? If a privatised company constructed public toilets, would you pay to pee? Or should we just accept that our towns have become public toilets?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

I do not think I will pay to pee in my lifetime again. I had a sad experience the last time I did. I lost my bag containing my all my academic certificates, bank passbook and other valuable items to thieves hanging around a public toilet in Nigeria. They are the ones who were collecting entry fees.
Richards Ebeh, Warri, Nigeria

I would pay if the services were managed efficiently. In Kampala most public toilets do not have running water and people are better off using the road side. It is a pity that our city planners do not even respect calls of nature.
Paul Mwirumubi, Kampala, Uganda

I will not pay to use public toilets, because they are never properly maintained.
Haruna Kuyateh, The Gambia

Monrovia is a city of uncontrolled roadside urinating. I think paying to use toilets is the only way to ensure that we keep our cities clean and free of health hazards caused by this careless behaviour.
E Julu Swen, Monrovia, Liberia

It was sometimes safer to urinate in public while your drunken friends stand guard
Mwiwa, Ottowa, Canada
Urinating at the roadside is not second nature to me. Although, looking back I have, on more than one occasion, relieved my bladder against a tree. I also remember as I walked to primary school, skipping over piles of dried, as well as fresh human faeces along the path I took through a local Nairobi slum.

There are two main reasons why I urinated in public. First, public toilets were extremely filthy. I felt more sanitary around the dark corner behind the local bar, than in a toilet that is caked with years of ...well ... you know. Secondly, it was sometimes safer to urinate in public while your drunken friends stand guard, as opposed to being accosted in a dark toilet with the threat of human excrement being smeared all over one's clothes by a rowdy street gang at night. Public urination is definitely not sanitary. In my case, it was a logical adaptation in a very precarious environment. If I could have afforded to pay for a clean toilet, I would have. But that does not solve the problem for my not-so-lucky brethren who's budgets barely afford food, let alone toilet services.
Mwiwa, Ottowa, Canada

Africa is not like the rest of the world. Your business is your own, and if you choose to pee in the streets then you can. In the west, the streets are clean and tidy, and there are nice buildings. When people urinate on them they get dirty, so people do not do it. However in Mombasa, apart from the hotels all the buildings are dirty, so no one cares if you urinate on them
Almain-al-Mohammed, Mombasa, Kenya

I am a Kenyan, well acquainted with "the outside bathrooms." Honestly, I would "pay to pee" without hesitation, because I am a medic and know what this practice does to our health. However, your question and suggested cause of action does not address the immediate needs of most people living in Africa. Tell me, if you have no money for food, clothing, medical care, children's basic education, would you spend your hard-earned coins on a public bathroom? First things first. If I had to make the decision, I would pee outside and buy a can of corn flour to make my children porridge.
Rose, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

My town Kisumu, in western Kenya smells like rotten eggs because of human waste
Josiah Imbuga Ambula, Kenya
It is an undignified act to pee in public places. My town Kisumu, in western Kenya smells like rotten eggs because of human waste. I am all for commercial public toilets but in addition there is also a need for governments to put in place strict laws to ensure good sanitary conditions for its citizens.
Josiah Imbuga Ambula, Kisumu, Kenya.

In most African towns, the planning authorities do not think public toilets are important, that is why you find a town with say a population of two million people with only ten public toilets. Even where these toilets exist, they are very dirty, so people would rather pee by the roadside than use dirty toilets and risk infection.
Sofi Malinga, Kampala, Uganda

If it has never happened to you, you may not know how terrible it is to hold it. But can I pay to pee? Yes!
Agbi Elifue, Nigeria

It is difficult to walk into a restaurant and pee. They do not allow it unless you buy food or drink
Ciugu Mwagiru, Kenya
I have personally paid to pee in Nairobi's central business district where you will find such toilets. Before the introduction of these toilets the only place I could find to help myself was behind trees and I was not the only one doing this. It is difficult to walk into a restaurant and pee. They do not allow it unless you buy food or drink. So what happens when you have no money to buy the food or the drinks?
David Ciugu Mwagiru, Nairobi, Kenya

The idea about having to pay to pee is quite nice if all the necessary facilities are in place. Our society and the government encourage us to pee in public. If our environment is clean, no right minded person will dare pee in such a place. But if the environment is dirty, people always find it easy to answer the call of nature freely.
Sylvester Simon, Delta State, Nigeria

Why should I pay to pee? In my part of the world public convenience is of no concern to the government. Most would rather use public funds for other things. It is ridiculous to ask an already poor man to pay, not, for a plate of food or a bottle of beer but to answer the call of nature!
Ezurike Owerri, Nigeria

Urinating in public is fast becoming a tradition in Cameroon. The majority of men relieve themselves by the streets and so do some drunken women. It should be banned.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon

A punishment like getting the perpetrators to clean the town centre would make them think twice.
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda
This is one of the most irritating habits people do in public. These people who urinate in public do not even mind the young children that see them. Most of the public toilets in Uganda charge only 50 Ugandan shillings (less than three cents US), but people still urinate on walls and in bushes. There are rules and regulations that prohibit urinating and defecating in public which have not been implemented by the local government.

The local councils and the communities working together with the local governments should put up tough measures against those who urinate in public. A punishment like getting the perpetrators to clean the town centre would make them think twice.
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda

Can anyone stand on the streets in the U.S or Europe and pee? No! Why? The way the streets are paved and cleaned will tell you that this not the place to pee. But in Africa, our streets are very dirty, so anyone one can pee anywhere along the roads or on streets corners. Not everyone can afford to pay to pee at a privatised toilet; even some of the privatised toilets are not well taken care of in terms of cleanliness. So people prefer the roadside. We need to recondition our towns and cities.
Michael Alladin, Monrovia, Liberia

Clean and sanitary toilets in many African countries can make a lasting, positive impression to tourists and visitors who help the economy with much needed foreign exchange. Restroom cleanliness is a major source of customer complaints.

However, more needs to be done to create awareness and to help promote good hygiene. If customers feel comfortable about the cleanliness of the toilets, they're much more likely to stay longer to consider purchasing our products and services now, and to return in the future! Governments needs to invest wisely in this area and to help promote public health through informational campaigns. According to some studies, almost one-third of infectious illness could be eliminated by proper hand washing.
Josephat Mua, Silver Spring USA

This is an interesting topic. It is usual in Africa to pee anywhere you want provided that nobody of the opposite sex is around. Before I came from Kenya to the USA, I discovered it is prohibited in America to pee just anywhere. If you are caught urinating on the roadside, you should be taken to jail or fined for unacceptable behaviour.

In 1988 the SPLA came out with clear message at refugee camps or in areas it controlled by privatising the usage of toilets. It worked because the community complied with the new regulations. People should cooperate because they know having a toilet is a good thing as far as health is concerned.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

I cannot pay. For sure a fellow African can allow me to use his household toilet
Ekari M'mame, Zomba, Malawi
I cannot pay to pee. Should someone accumulate riches just by the way of constructing a house where we, people with dignity can go in and pee? Isn't this the same as prostitution where someone also answers to the call of nature?

I am sure it is the policy of the government here in Malawi to see to it that sanitation is at its best. It is also the duty of the citizens to see to it that they too act properly to improve the sanitation. But if someone constructs a place where one can pee for cash, surely I can not pay, I would rather ask to do it at the nearest household. For sure a fellow African can allow me to use his household toilet.
Ekari M'mame, Zomba, Malawi

To pee in public is indecent and unhygienic. Unlike other animals human beings are able to use their minds to full capacity and also have their dignity to protect.

Now what would happen when an elderly person is peeing in public an a youngster happens to pass by an see the whole lot?! Peeing in public is immoral. It's better to pay and relieve yourself in private, and save the environment from degradation. We all know the effects of urine on the environment with its bad odour and corrosive qualities.
Caesar Nkambule, Nelspruit, South Africa

I agree that urinating and dirtiness along the road side is really a problem in most countries in Africa. We are the cause of all this because in towns like Bamenda Cameroon, people just urinate along the road and even in front of houses. At times you even find faeces along the street side.

It's very bad that you even see women during the day answering the call of nature along the roadside, not even thinking of what the next person will say.

It's not good for the health of the general public, and the smell you find around some public areas stings like a bee.

I would prefer that public toilets be constructed round town and good hygienic measures taken.
Killian Ngwainmbi, Bamenda , Cameroon


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