Outhouse in ger area

The public should stay alert of soil-borne diseases because the risks of flood and soil pollution is increasing as the weather becomes warmer, warns experts.

Doctors say that a large number of people are infected with intestinal infectious diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery in early April as a result of floods, water contamination and soil pollution. They call this period “the infectious disease season”.

Soil-related diseases are extremely harmful, particularly to the health of children. However, most people aren’t aware of its cause, consequences or ways to prevent it. Government agencies conduct research and study on this issue, but the public still remains ignorant as they are not being informed about the findings.

The General Agency of Specialized Inspection, Mongolian Academy of Science’s Institute of Geography and Public Health Institute, and others have already studied soil pollution. The study shows that the main cause of soil pollution are the increasing number of vehicles, expansion of automobile markets, engine oil trading, industrial waste, and outhouses that do not meet standards in ger areas.

According to a study conducted two years ago, merely 18 percent of the total area in Ulaanbaatar hadn’t been polluted. Researchers haven’t determined impacts of this change. Test results show that bacteria, fungus and mold were detected from 87.9 percent of total collected soil samples.

As mentioned before, outhouses are one of the biggest causes of all types of intestinal infectious diseases. Reportedly, over 60 percent of total residents in the capital live in ger areas and more than 300 families consisting of some 180,000 people use outhouses. This means that 90 percent of families in ger area have a regular pit latrine. In other words, the majority of Ulaanbaatar residents living in ger areas still use pit latrines. However, most of these families can’t afford to regularly disinfect, sterilize and clean out their outhouses. Every substance inside pit latrines are absorbed into the soil, which impacts greatly on drinking water. It can be said that poor management of outhouses is one of the leading causes of various diseases young children get infected with in spring.

Intestinal infectious diseases rapidly increase when warm seasons begin because ices melt and cause floods. The fact that most families in ger area don’t have standard sewage borehole is the main cause of intestinal infectious diseases.

In 2014, there were 1,704 reports of five types of intestinal infectious diseases, including hepatitis A, dysentery, salmonella infections and diarrheal diseases, in Mongolia. This is 394 more than the previous year. Around 71.3 percent of these diseases were dysentery and 1.6 percent were diarrheal diseases.

Head of the Toxicology and Environmental Health Center of the Public Health Institute A.Enkhjargal was asked about the standard of outhouses in Mongolia.

She said, “Outhouses, which are built for sanitary reasons, must have a ventilation and a seat or steps and must be built with sturdy materials that can be cleaned. It must have a light. It should be located near the home, but not where there’s a lot of wind or water. Outhouses need to be built on slightly higher ground to prevent precipitation from going into the pit latrine. In particular, it should be at least 15 meters away from their home and kitchen.”

She advised cleaning the floor of outhouses with water or ash every day, leaving toilet seats uncovered, and checking the fly net every day to improve the hygiene of the outhouse. However, most families in ger areas have outhouses 10 within meters from their home. According to a research, eight out of 10 families in ger areas said that their outhouses don’t meet health and sanitary requirements and expressed their interest to change it. It was determined that seven out of 10 families don’t have lights in their outhouse and that it stinks and has flies swarming about.

As soil pollution is increasing and causing various diseases, Head of the Early Warning and Response Unit of the National Research Center for Infectious Diseases N.Suvdmaa was asked about the current situation of intestinal infectious diseases in Ulaanbaatar.

“Intestinal infectious diseases rapidly increase when warm seasons begin because ices melt and cause floods. The fact that most families in ger area don’t have standard sewage borehole is the main cause of intestinal infectious diseases. Around 90 percent of people infected with this type of disease are receiving consultation and related information. They receive medical treatment from home so no one has been admitted to a hospital at the moment. Overall, our unit is doing risk assessment and mapping as infectious diseases are expected to increase in the future. We’re cautioning the public to take preventive measures,” N.Suvdmaa said.