A partnership began back in the 1990s when an Indonesian student in Australia, Dr Budi Laksono concluded from his local medical practice that it was lack of sanitation that was holding rural Indonesians back.

Kids too sick to attend school, end up dropping out completely; parents who struggle to complete a weeks work because of regular gastroenteritis find it difficult to feed their families, and the knot of poverty tightens.

In some areas, 90% of rural Indonesian’s do not have any sanitation. Gastrointestinal infections are thought to account for over 165,000 deaths a year with diarrhea as the major cause of infant mortality (31%).

Local, inexpensive, adaptable

The answer, for Dr Laksono and his then supervisor now project partner, Professor Don Stewart from the Griffith Health Institute’s (GHI) Population and Social Health Research Centre, was latrines. Made of local, inexpensive materials they needed to be adaptable, easy to produce, good in wet or dry seasons and easy to maintain.

The project has recently attracted over $700,00 funding from Swiss Bank philanthropy, UBS Optimus Foundation to complete scientific testing of the latrine’s effectiveness.

“Technically, the design works and, as a result of local village input, it satisfies the critical cultural and social requirements of defecation in the rural environment; and seasonal changes in water supply,” said Professor Stewart.

Better physical growth, better school attendance

The team expects to see a significant rise in calorie and protein intake for the children of the area, which they hope will translate into improved growth and development, greater school attendance and increased energy and capacity to attend in class.

The GHI/ UNDIP latrine project will get under way in the last quarter of 2013.