Sanitation First – Tackling poverty one toilet at a time

Whatever you call the smallest room in your house, the chances are that if you are reading this blog post you will have at least one toilet, water closet or WC, lavatory, washroom, restroom, powder room, comfort station, privy, latrine, can, altar room, chamber of commerce, poet’s corner, john or throne room …

It is only in the last 150 years that toilet usage in the UK has become as convenient as it is now and diseases that were once prevalent, such as cholera, dysentery, worms, and pneumonia, have virtually died out.  For many people around the world, however, this is not the case. Some 2.4 billion people do not have access to a toilet at all, while 4.5 billion people have no toilet or one which is seriously sub-standard.

The negative effects of not having access to safe and hygienic sanitation are numerous. If you are in primary school and don’t have a toilet there, you will very likely have to use an alleyway or open space. Every year, over 800,000 children under five die from some form of diarrhoea-based disease.

According to the World Bank, Sanitation is the single most cost-effective public health intervention to reduce child mortality and Sanitation First, a grass-roots charity, was set up to tackle poverty ‘one toilet at a time’.

We were delighted to receive this video outlining the charity’s recent achievements which include:

  • building the first ever School Ecosan in India;
  • constructing over 200 school sanitation blocks;
  • providing hygiene training;
  • processing of waste into compost; and
  • building water purification plants.

This charity is as good as it gets.

Ingram Winter Green Solicitors had a chance to support Sanitation First in India around 12 years ago when it was called Wherever the Need.  Introduced by a client, Andy Barrs, the firm helped provide building in the photograph below to accommodate a family in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, supported a toilet and shower complex in an Indian village near Pondicherry, and funded a number of ecosan projects.

‘This charity is as good as it gets,’ says partner Paul Sheeter, ‘as most of what you pay goes directly into the targets and you can do specific projects. The ideology of the charity is really appealing, as they believe in helping the poor to help themselves.’

Sanitation First has a vision of everyone having access to a safe and hygienic toilet. Toilets are the stepping-stones towards a better future for people living in acute poverty, as basic sanitation is the linchpin that connects all other forms of development. Without improved sanitation, poverty will not be eradicated.

For more information visit their website:

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.