This is an archival version of the original KnowledgePoint website.

Interactive features have been disabled and some pages and links have been removed.

Visit the new KnowledgePoint website at


Animal faeces - what to do?


Hello All

What to do about animal faeces?

Does it pose a risk to public health of humans? Should i be addressing this in my sanitation program? (often from programs that have reached Human ODF). What are the transmission routes? Is it sufficient to restrict animal faeces to a particular area or do i need to keep flies away etc. etc.

People often ask me this question - and i'm embarrassed not to have a clear answer. When i try and find out more i end up in complicated academic journal territory.

Does anyone know of a simple document that explains these issues? - for me to educate myself and to share with others.

many thanks


5 Answers

Yael Velleman

Hi James, Although evidence on this is weak, I would say that animal feces are indeed a problem. Studies have shown that chicken feces, for example, have a heavier pathogen load than human feces, and some intestinal worm infections can be acquired by humans from pig feces. But if you ask me, the problem is bigger than that. * Animal presence at the household level can mean that human feces can be spread around more, either through increased presence of flies, or simply animals treading in human feces and then bringing it closer to the household (worse of course when there's OD but just as problematic with substandard latrines). This is worse in situations where animals live in very close proximity to humans, often sharing the same room and having unrestricted access to areas where children play (possibly contributing to environmental enteropathy/ EED) and cooking areas. * There are other issues to do with intensified agriculture, where drug-resistant bacteria due to overuse/misuse of antibiotics can enter the environment, water and the food chain through animal manure.

WHO is currently working on some information pieces about this (in particular some infographics), which should be published within the next few months.

If you ask me, this is a major blindspot in current sanitation programming.

Tess G

Not sure if this completely answers your question but the WHO guide to water safety planning considered animals in the process, and highlights what some of the risks might be and how to address them;

I have been told previously (thought I don't have a reference) that all mammal digestive systems are very similar therefore many of the bacteria that can be present in our poo can also be in animal poo. It's sounds feasible to me and is maybe a way to explain it to people, though I'd be happy to hear from someone more knowledgeable....


Hi James

Although the evidence is weak, another way to look at this is from the perspective of pride and cleanliness of our households and our communities. I have seen some excellent work done in Ethiopia by a partner of ours called the "flag" system. They work with a community to agree a number of hygiene behaviours that a household shoudl achieve and then they agree what levels of achievement d=get rewarded with what colour flag that a household then gets to fly above their house. If memory serves, in the village I visited, households achieving 15 behaviours got a red flag, 12 green, 10 white and below this nothing.

The behaviours included: Dish rack, handwashing station, a used toilet, a clean toilet, a clean yard, animals kept outside the house and in a separate fenced area, using a smokeless stove in a separate kitchen, clean kitchen area, covered food storage etc

All this was driven through positive pride messaging. And then the idea was that if you achieved this in all households and then public areas, then the entire community could claim to be a clean and healthy community - so really at this point much like CLTS declaration.

The point of this is that there is some evidence that point to soil and environmental contamination as others have pointed out. We know that animal faeces do contaminate water sources if it gets washed into them (surface and groundwater). So therefore, should hygiene programmes do something about it? I would argue yes.

How much to do this at scale is the real question of course. Do we focus on communities, do we focus on national campaigns, do we do this through school curricula, do we strengthen health extension programmes - or ll of the above? Lots of space to try and innovate big things!


Try to change taboo ideas about animal feces. Explore useful destinations for the animal dung: - Mix with dead vegetation and make compost for agriculture; - Mix a bit with clay to make stronger mud walls; - Dry animal feces for fuel - heat and cooking. a bit more advanced - make bio-fuel - some local entrepreneur may like this.


Do an internet search on "practical uses"