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Developing knowledge and capacity in water and sanitation

Online courses

Development, Disasters and Sanitation

This professional development course has been designed for those new to working in development or disaster relief.

The course is delivered using a variety of media including slide presentations, film clips, animations, photography and graphics supported by selected online publications.

Unit 1 explores important background issues surrounding development, disaster relief and poverty that will provide a foundation for the understanding of more detailed subjects such as the provision of water and sanitation.

Unit 2 specifically examines the principles of excreta disposal. It considers the importance of environmental sanitation in general and in particular the disposal of excreta for improving the health and well being of poor people living in both rural and urban communities.

Each unit takes approximately 1 hour to study, excluding associated reading. A Certificate of Completion is awarded on successful completion of the unit assessments and completion of the course evaluation form.

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Detailed course contents list

Unit 1: Development and Disasters


  • About this unit
  • What you will learn

Why do people want to offer help?

  • Why work in emergency relief
  • The views of aid workers
  • Identifying perspectives
  • Personal reasons
  • Other broader reasons
  • Are there problems with giving aid?
  • Reasons given against giving aid
  • Recognising motives

What do we need to live well?

  • Fulfilling and sustainable lives
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs
  • Life expectancy
  • Variation in life expectancy
  • Rates of death
  • Quality of life
  • Resources and assets
  • Access to assets
  • The Sustainable Livelihoods Model
  • Balancing assets
  • Reflective activities

Improving our resources

  • How assets change over time
  • What is 'enough'?
  • Changing assets
  • The enabling environment
  • Helping development

When do people need help?

  • Definitions of poverty and poor people
  • Dictionary definitions
  • Measures of poverty
  • A dollar a day
  • Poverty thresholds
  • Review

Defining development

  • Perspectives on developing countries
  • Poverty and poor people
  • Measuring aspects of development
  • Economic development
  • Economic development indicators
  • Human development
  • Other factors of well being
  • The impact of population
  • Physical development
  • Environmental development
  • Social development
  • Rights-based development
  • Other social development indicators

Measuring progress

  • The Human Development Index
  • Indicators of progress
  • Goals
  • What is the goal of development
  • SMART goals
  • The Millennium Development Goals
  • Actual indicators

The impact of disasters

  • Socks
  • Slow and rapid-onset disasters
  • Trends
  • Frequency of disasters
  • More about thresholds
  • Magnitude of damage and frequency
  • Resilience and vulnerability
  • Review your assets
  • The impact of resources
  • The spread of resources
  • Recovery

Types of disasters

  • Natural disasters
  • Man-made disasters
  • The magnitude of different disasters
  • The total number of deaths
  • The number of people affected
  • Economic impact
  • Regional incident
  • Complex disasters
  • The human response to flee
  • A humanitarian disaster
  • Further thoughts

Setting targets for basic needs

  • Basic measures
  • Sphere
  • Assessing local conditions
  • The case of Haiti - 1
  • The case of Haiti - 2
  • The case of Haiti - 3
  • The case of Haiti - 4
  • Summary
  • Credits

Unit assessment

Unit 2: Principles of Excreta Disposal


  • Welcome
  • About this unit
  • What you will learn
  • Where we are now
  • Does poverty matter?
  • What can be done to reduce poverty?
  • Taking an incremental approach
  • Environmental sanitation
  • What is environmental sanitation?
  • What does excreta disposal mean?
  • Why is excreta disposal important?
  • Excreta and disease
  • The spread of disease
  • Poverty and poor health
  • Importance to users
  • Environmental and social benefits
  • Why is the situation so bad?
  • Other difficulties
  • Links with water supply and hygiene
  • A mix of skills
  • Encouraging communities

Latrine components

  • The room
  • The toilet
  • Squatting toilets
  • Pedestal toilets
  • Accommodating all users
  • Planning services for all

Technical options

  • Excreta disposal methods
  • On-site disposal
  • Pit latrines
  • The simple pit latrine
  • Problems with simple pits
  • The pour-flush latrine
  • The water-seal pan
  • The VIP latrine
  • Twin pit latrines
  • Septic tank systems
  • Ecological sanitation
  • Urine diversion
  • Composting toilets
  • Off-site disposal
  • Open defecation
  • The 'cat' method
  • Using plastic bags
  • Trench latrines
  • Conservancy
  • Sewerage
  • Communal latrines

Deciding what to do

  • How do you decide what to do?
  • Soil conditions and the water table
  • Water consumption and physical space
  • Types of anal cleansing and cost
  • Will the toilets be used?
  • Cultural issues
  • Monitoring improvements
  • Are toilets affordable?
  • The role of central government
  • The role of local government
  • The role of donors and international agencies

Promoting sanitation

  • Persuading poor people to build a latrine
  • Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS)
  • CLTS in action
  • CLTS in Bangladesh 1
  • CLTS in Bangladesh 2
  • CLTS in Bangladesh 3
  • Sanitation marketing
  • Delivering key messages
  • Sanitation marketing in Cambodia
  • The Sanitation Ladder
    • Open defecation
    • The 'cat' method
    • A shallow pit with logs
    • A deep pit with logs
    • Slab covered in mud
    • A SanPlat is fitted
    • A concrete slab and pit lining
    • Upgrading a pour-flush latrine
    • Off-set pour flush latrine with extended pipe
    • Flush toilet to a septic tank
    • Flush toilet to a sewer
    • Upgrading a VIP latrine
    • Aqua-privy to a drainage fields
    • Aqua-privy to a sewer


  • Conclusion
  • Credits

Unit assessment