Access to sanitation

Why Practical Action is concerned about lack of access to sanitation

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2006) more than 13 million deaths annually are due to preventable environmental causes. Nearly one third of death and disease in the least developed regions is due to environmental causes. Over 40% of deaths from malaria and an estimated 94% of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases, two of the world's biggest childhood killers, could be prevented through better environmental health management.

We believe that improving environmental health is the most least cost and high impact approach to reduce poverty and improve well being of the poor men and women. An estimated 2.2 billion people lacks access to proper sanitation. We work on sanitation promotion if community see it as a high priority and there are clear evidence of existing and potential demand. There are certain fundamental principles we adopt to improve access to sanitation:

  • Work in more integrated way and keep a strong focus on improving access to street and household level infrastructure, which includes water, sanitation, reduce smoke stoves and proper management of solid waste
  • Behavioural changes as an integral part of the approach, which means hygiene education, awareness building and building a sense of responsibility
  • Reducing the cost and improving the standards of technologies through research and continuous learning
  • Real participation, which should be done beyond the division of power, ethnicity, gender and age
  • Influencing practices and policies at the national, regional and global levels

What we have learned from our work?

A demonstration and training toilet in the post-tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka

  • Participation and creating a sense of ownership could lead to better sustainability, operation and maintenance of infrastructure
  • Environmental health interventions often yield benefits that go beyond the immediate health improvements. For example, income and employment can be created with the provision of environmental health infrastructure and services
  • While small scale interventions are important, it is equally important to influence the mechanism at the national and global levels. Particularly the decisions to finance and provide environmental health infrastructure and services in large numbers
  • Many environmental health interventions are economically competitive with other kinds of health-sector interventions
  • Water, sanitation, waste, reducing indoor air pollution and hygiene can be package together in innovative programmes, in which technology could play a key role for wider uptake and effective at scale social outcomes.

Knowledge and publications

We have published a range of publications and journals to improve knowledge and understanding on water, sanitation and waste issues. For further details please see:

See also the World Toilet Organisation

Sanitation work in Bangladesh

In one of our projects in slum areas of Faridpur, Bangladesh more than 2500 people are enjoying improved water and sanitation facilities. The impact of hygiene education is very evident as 9-year-old Prachi draws a message asking people to stop building the hanging latrines.

9-year-old Prachi draws a message asking people to stop building the hanging latrines an old hanging latrine

Other pictures describe some of the non-improved systems in other slums, our meetings with slum dwellers and improved toilets, with the cleaning duties divided between slum dwellers.

meeting with slum dwellers an improved toilet


Faecal sludge management in Bangladesh

Practical Action has won a prestigious innovation award from the International Water Association for our work on ‘faecal sludge management’ in Bangladesh.

Read more

How you can help

Toilets without water
Bio-latrines are "dry" toilets that require no water to work. In areas where water is scarce, such as Kitale in Kenya, they could help to keep schools open - with your help.

Walk for Water
Every day women and children in Africa and Asia walk an average of four miles to collect water. Why not take practical action and Walk for Water - so that they don't have to.

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