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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toilets: The Marvelous Tool that Turns One Dollar Into Nine

HOPE International Development Agency is widely recognized as an organization that works with the poorest people in the world to bring clean water to their communities. But we have a lesser-known but equally persistent passion - sanitation for the poor. Or, to put it much more frankly, toilets for everyone.

Once we start working with a community, its members decide on a set of enforced guidelines meant to manage their projects (like water systems or new school buildings) and sustain and protect their benefits (like improved health). These guidelines always include a requirement that every family should have a well-built latrine.

It is truly staggering to examine the benefits that come from toilet usage and good hygienic practice. To not place an emphasis on sanitation is to miss out on an incredibly effective way to ease the burden of poverty for a very small investment.

In fact, for every dollar that you spend on improved sanitation, you earn back about nine dollars worth of benefits.

These benefits range from 1,000 extra productive hours for every household (that would otherwise be spent lining up at a public toilet, or searching for somewhere private), to saving 12% of sub-Saharan Africa’s health budget, where typically half of their hospital beds are filled with people suffering from diarrhoeal diseases. What useless misery.

There is a fantastic fact-sheet here that outlines the incredible benefits of investing in sanitation. Reading it, we are reminded of why this is such a critical emphasis in our ongoing work with the poor. Perhaps we should talk about this topic more often. It would not bother us a bit to be associated with toilets, when you consider how much they do to protect the health and wealth of all people.

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