Why is sanitation important?

Effective sanitation is essential for the development of communities. Efforts to improve health, education and nutrition are all dependent on access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WaterAid, 2013, p. 14). Improving sanitation in poor communities also breaks the cycle of deprivation, and therefore reduces economic inequalities (WaterAid, 2013, p. 11). The world is experiencing rapid population growth, including in developing regions whose access to water, sanitation and hygiene is limited (WaterAid, 2013, p. 14). Improving. It is critical to improve the infrastructure in these areas.

Diarrhoea is responsible for 1.5 million preventable child deaths each year. This means it kills more children then AIDS, malaria and measles combined

Sanitation programs reduce malnutrition as well as the burden of disease in disadvantaged communities. In 2006, half of all hospital beds in developing countries were filled by patients with illnesses caused by inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WaterAid, 2013, p. 18).

2.5 billion people do not have access to a toilet (Mollins, 2012).

How do toilets help stop disease?

While adequate sanitation is something that the developed world readily takes for granted, it is a matter of life and death in the developing world. In fact, diseases relating to poor sanitation are the second largest cause of infant mortality across the globe.

Adequate sanitation means the safe disposal of human excreta (waste) and hygienic practices, like washing one’s hands. The key is to separate humans from their waste which contains dangerous pathogens. A safe toilet accompanied by hand washing with soap, provides an effective barrier to the spread of diseases. A toilet is able to contain and breakdown waste as opposed to leaking and contaminating water supplies, food sources (including livestock, fish and crops), and disease spreading insects. Water and sanitation play a fundamental role in many horrific and potentially fatal diseases. The seriousness of the situation has been recognised by the UN Millennium Development Goals who have targeted improving access to water and basic sanitation as key parts of eradicating poverty. This has brought greater attention to the importance of sanitation, but there is still a long way to go.

Lack of access to sanitation facilities affects women more than men. Studies have demonstrated that women who have to travel to use the toilet or to defecate in the open are more susceptible to sexual harassment, violence and rape. When girls get their period they are more reluctant to attend school due to the lack of privacy.

Worldwide, approximately 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.  Diarrhoea-related diseases such as Cholera are responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million children under the age of 5 every year.  5 in every 10 hospital beds are occupied by a patient with a water-related disease such as diarrhoea, and 433 million school days are lost every year due to such diseases.

But there is good news.  Despite these grim statistics, 94% of all occurrences of diarrhoea-related diseases are in fact avoidable.  Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programs (WASH) have the potential to save over 2,500 lives per day.  What’s more, for every $1 invested into WASH, an estimated $8 is returned in increased productivity.

Which diseases are prevented/minimised by toilets?

There is a wide range of diseases that can be minimised by the use of sanitation. This includes:

  • Cholera – a bacterial infection of the intestinal tract. It causes severe diarrhoea which can quickly lead to acute dehydration and death, if left untreated.
  • Guinea Worm disease is contracted from drinking water that has been contaminated with the larvae
  • Fluorosis – serious bone disease caused by high concentrations of fluoride in groundwater.
  • HIV/AIDS – AIDS-affected people are more susceptible to water-related diseases due to their weakened immune systems
  • Intestinal worms – this is caused by contact with soil that has been contaminated with human faeces from an infected person
  • Malaria – mosquito populations can be reduced by eliminated standing water (caused by poor drainage and uncovered water tanks)
  • Schistosomiasis – a disease caused by parasitic worms that penetrate an individual’s skin whilst they are bathing or washing in contaminated water
  • Trachoma – an eye infection spread mainly through poor hygiene caused by lack of adequate water supplies and unsafe environmental sanitation conditions. About 6 million people are blind today because of trachoma. Studies have found that providing adequate water supplies could reduce infection rates by 25 per cent.
  • Typhoid – a bacterial infection from ingesting contaminated food or water.

(UNICEF, 2003)

Where do the profits go? How do you decide who to invest your profits with?

We plan to invest all of our profits with Sanishop (http://worldtoilet.org/wto/index.php/our-works/sanishop), a social enterprise that works in developing countries to improve sanitation.

Sanishop is a World Toilet Organisation initiative that works at a grassroots level. As a social business, it trains masons in Cambodia to source, build and maintain toilets, and set up their own sustaining enterprises. Sanishop also empowers local women to sell these toilets to communities at an affordable price. This provides much needed economic opportunities for the men and women involved.

The toilets sold raise the sanitation standards of local communities, directly decreasing the rates of diarrhoea-related disease. Looloo Paper and Sanishop are passionate about creating local solutions to local problems. This project allows communities to become self-sufficient by building local economies and raising sanitation standards.

Which countries does Looloo help in? Why them?

We have partnered with Sanishop, whose efforts are focussed in Cambodia, with plans to expand to other South-East Asian states. For us at Looloo, this partnership offers us an immediate way to start achieving results with our profits, but in the longer term we hope to expand to other developing countries, addressing the places in the world with the greatest need.

Our current impact model will be extremely effective at changing the lives of those we assist. By simply putting a pit toilet in a community, children can stay at school, adults can work, and life expectancy is vastly improved. In terms of a SROI (Social Return on Investment), as the WHO has estimated that 94% of all instances of diarrhoea-related disease is easily preventable, we will be able to guarantee a really high level of effectiveness from our profits.

Building a dual-composting toilet goes a great deal to improving the sanitation conditions of less developed communities.

Based on the current progress of sanitation improvement projects, 100 million people in South Asia will still be without safe water and almost a billion will lack sanitation in 2015 (WaterAid, 2013, p. 12).




More information

SaniShop: http://worldtoilet.org/wto/index.php/our-works/sanishop

Water.org Sanitation Facts: http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/sanitation/

The Global Poverty Project, ‘Sanitation and Poverty’, http://www.globalpovertyproject.com/infobank/Sanitation

UNICEF, 2012, ‘World Toilet Day, ending open defecation is possible, says UNICEF’ http://www.unicef.org/media/media_66390.html

UNICEF, 2013, ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’, http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_3951.html

UNICEF, 2013, Water Media Release, http://www.unicef.org/media/media_68359.html

UNICEF & World Health Organisation, 2009, ‘Diarrhoea: Why Children are still dying and what can be done’, http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2009/9789241598415_eng.pdf

Toelle, S. 201, ‘Find Inspiration in Toilets’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sunnie-toelle/world-toilet-organization_b_2785439.html?goback=.gde_2614075_member_219040941Mr.%20Toilet

UNICEF & World Health Organisation, 2012, ‘Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update’, http://www.unicef.org/media/files/JMPreport2012.pdf

Uniliever & School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, ‘Toilets for Health’ www.unilever.com/images/sd_Toilets-for%20Health-141113_tcm13-326524.pdf More information on diseases related to diarrhoea and poor sanitation.

World Health Organisation, ’10 Facts on Cholera’, http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/cholera/facts/en/index.html

World Health Organisation, Cholera – historical outbreaks and facts, http://www.who.int/topics/cholera/en/

Historical Outbreak of Cholera: http://www.choleraandthethames.co.uk/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1854_Broad_Street_cholera_outbreak


Meet Mr. Toilet, Jack Sim: http://vimeo.com/34792993

Sanishop videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgBgzAeezN0


Mollins, J. 2012, ‘London sanitation show aims to make “poo” hot topic’ http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/18/us-exhibition-sanitation-lshtm-idUSBRE89H13920121018

UNICEF, 2003, ‘Common water and sanitation-related diseases’, http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_wes_related.html

WaterAid, 2003, ‘Everyone, Everywhere – A vision for water, sanitation and hygiene post-2015’ www.wateraid.org/~/media/Publications/EveryoneEverywhere.ashx


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