Public Hygiene Goes Both Ways

Nov 27 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

There is much to complain about when it comes to public restrooms, many of which are unsightly and pungent due to a lack of proper hygiene awareness and infrastructure. But there is always a reason to get even more frustrated.

Often, we will find people engaging in public urination, which mortifies many others. Part of the reason for this is connected to how dining halls, cafeterias and local establishments have conditioned people into thinking a bathroom or restroom is a luxury and that they have the right to limit usage to their patrons. This is absurd. Even knowing that I have every right to use their facilities, I often feel the need to order either a macchiato or tea before running to the restroom. That is what we call old fashioned yelugnta, a feeling of discomfiture.

Being unable to use the restroom makes some opt to urinate on the streets, and some even take 'number two' on the road. It gets worse. They probably do not clean themselves properly afterwards and thus will be carrying all types of pathogens on themselves. People also rarely ever carry hand sanitiser and would likely not bother to visit a handwashing facility – not that they could easily find them.

In some places, including government institutions, it is possible to get public bathroom facilities. But some of the things people may find in there could be mortifying.

Who in their right minds would dip their fingers into faecal matter to graffiti on the walls of bathroom stalls?

As repulsive as it sounds, if one is inclined to do as such, they can decorate their own bathrooms in that manner but not a public restroom that has to be shared with others.

How does it even work? Do these people do it with intent or after sitting on the toilet they realise that there is neither tissue paper nor water and thus take the matter to its illogical conclusion?

Given the lack of hygiene, the mere act of sitting in a public restroom is uncomfortable, especially if it is not clean. I will take my business home. Most women share my sentiment. That is why most of us do it squatting as opposed to sitting on the seat. Men have urinals thus do not have to worry about such things.

This phenomenon has happened to me a few times in the past, but I brushed it off. I even told myself it is not what it looks like. Maybe it is a stain from wot(stew) or some other food, but the smell was unmistakable then and even now. I do not know the logic behind this act, if there is any.

Perhaps we should not make the establishments that provide restrooms only to their patrons out to be the bad guys when the bathroom is kept under lock and key. It is hard to blame why some of the more high-class establishments have begun using bathroom attendants, which I usually do not like because it makes me uncomfortable knowing they are close. A look at how public restrooms are treated, and it is not that hard to understand.

To improve hygiene in the country, everyone should play their part. Before defacing these facilities, people should think of how the urgency feels. It is the urgency when one needs to use the facilities and there are not any around and ponders the relief one feels and be grateful there was a clean restroom in their time of need.

Some 60pc to 80pc of all communicable diseases in Ethiopia are attributed to lack of access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Some 70,000 children die every year of diarrhoea. It is up to all of us to improve this situation.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 27,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1126]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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