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Current Situation

There are a lot of numbers out there about sanitation and the world - it can be confusing to understand what's really happening. FLUSH wants to help you feel less confused, so we created an infographic (left) to help you see how those numbers are related. 

As of 2018:

  • There are 7.2 billion people in the world.

  • 4.5 billion people don't have either a basic toilet, or have an unsafe toilet system

  • 2.3 billion people don't have a basic toilet system or latrine at all.

  • 890 million people defecate out in the open - in a field, or a lake.

The three countries with the largest number of people needing a toilet are:

  • India (522 million people)

  • Nigeria (46.5 million people)

  • Indonesia (32 million people)

842,000 people die annually because of poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. 33% of those people die annually just because of poor sanitation.

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WASH Sector Fails

Over the years, the WASH sector faces some challenges in getting people access to clean drinking water and safe toilets. At FLUSH, we have distilled some of the key failures and misconceptions we have witnessed in the sector that need to change.

"If they build it, they will come"

Building toilets for people and then leaving the scene has been a historically common way people in the world of water & sanitation have tried to improve access to sanitation.
Read more: The Last Taboo: (by Black & Fawcett)

Read more: Toilets & Taps Aren't Enough (by Casey & Crichton-Smith)

"Let's have a marathon training event"

​Training people with the skills to help others get access to clean water and sanitation takes time. Many training sessions are crammed into one or two 6-8 hour days. As a result, people don't remember what they were taught and are not confident in using the skills they just learned.

Read more: NGO Partnerships and Capacity Development in the WASH Sector (by Willetts et al)

Read more: Capacity Building in Cambodia’s Rural Local Governments for the Sanitation Market (by Worsham et al)

"Isn't there some silver bullet..."

What may be a successful solution for one community, may not necessarily work for another. Different terrains require different toilet structures and cultural differences must be accounted for in order for a system to prosper. 

Read more: Reinventing the silver bullet (by Smits at IRC WASH)

"Surely, we can fix this problem in 3 years..."

When you consider the significant amount time needed to set up and dismantle a project, there is very little time left to actually examine, analyze and execute all that is necessary to ensure the project is a success. Furthermore, expecting to change customs that have existed for generations in just a few short years can be unrealistic. Often times, slippage occurs and despite the best efforts of those involved, people go right back to their old ways.  

Read more: Understanding slippage: 8 ways going forward (WSSCC)

"Let's talk to the male leaders of this community for solutions..."

Sure, talking to the leaders about a sensitive topic like toilets is important, but often times the best people to talk to are the ones with the most to lose without access to clean water and toilets – the women, the disabled, the elderly, and the vulnerable. Including these groups in the project planning is crucial to ensuring its success.


Read more: Realizing Sanitation Access and Usage at Any Time, for Everyone and Everywhere (by SNV)

Read more: Gender Equality and Disability Inclusion within WASH (by WaterAid)


Note: Thanks to the CS WASH Fund for hosting resources.

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