By Samuel Langat
Between 2000 and 2017, the number of people without access to a toilet in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 212 million, a result of how quickly the region’s population has expanded.
This number should be decreasing over time, not increasing.
And yet, there are more people in the region now forced to defecate in public places or resort to solutions such as the ‘flying toilet’ – a plastic bag that is essentially thrown as far away as possible. For women and girls, open defecation can prove particularly dangerous.
Poor sanitation comes with a heavy economic burden, too. Back in 2016, poor sanitation in Africa was accountable for a loss of $US19.3 million. This is the salary people lose from being unable to work. Money spent by health care systems treating easily preventable diseases. The financial cost of losing a family’s primary provider. It all adds up.
With a long history making bathroom products, we have dedicated our expertise to tackling the sanitation crisis. Africa’s unique challenges require a unique solution. One that uses less water, can be installed without where sewage systems, limits the spread of disease and that will last.
Importantly, we have focused on showing that while delivering social good is important, it must be self-sustaining.
We first introduced our SATO toilets in Rwanda seven years ago. Like any business, we have financial targets. But we also have social targets which centre of making, selling and distributing our products in the country we work in. Since launching, we have shipped 250,000 units to over 15 countries across the continent.
We understand that the key to success is ensuring we work closely with knowledgeable partners on the ground and tailor our approach to each different market.
One of our key partners is UNICEF. Combining UNICEF’s expertise in sanitation behaviour change with our expertise in affordable toilet solutions, we have initiated activities in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. Together, we are reaching out to the 92% of the population across these countries that don’t have access to safe sanitation services.
In Tanzania, we are the only private player and, with UNICEF, are supporting their nation-wide sanitation campaign, “Nyumba Ni Choo” (“a home is only complete with a good toilet”).
In Kenya, we are working with the USAID program called Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH). Together we have installed 10,000 SATO toilets and trained over 1,800 local volunteers to install and maintain the SATO toilet.
In Ethiopia, we are working on analysing supply chains and ensuring a stronger sanitation economy all around. Working with Population Services International, a non-political organisation, the joint efforts have seen much success, especially in the Amhara region (Desse).
Despite this, we need to accelerate progress.
Next year will be five years since the global development community launched the Sustainable Development Goals with the aim of “leaving no one behind”. However, only one in five countries where open defecation is practised are on track to reach the goal of “near elimination” by 2030. Many are being left behind. Not only that, but the number of people being left behind is increasing.
We live in a world where advanced technology has developed ahead of fundamental services. Almost everyone is within reach of a mobile cellular network and yet over half of the world doesn’t have access to a safe toilet. While 456 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa had a mobile connection in 2018, an estimated 344 million children did not have a functioning toilet at home. This cannot continue.
At LIXIL, we’re committed to building on and expanding our work on the continent. At the Tokyo International Conference African Development this year, governments agreed that sanitation was a fundamental element of human capital development. 9 We fully support the greater alignment of stakeholders and coherence on promoting universal health coverage, and we will continue to play our part with local partners in the sanitation field.
We call on new partners to join us in tackling this crisis.
About the author
Samuel Langat, General Manager for SATO
Sam joined the SATO Global Leadership Team in April 2019 responsible for SATO Africa Operations. Sam is an accomplished strategic, commercial development leader and certified coach with extensive experience in domestic and international markets in strategy and operations, involving both start-up and growth organizations, a career spanning over 16 years.
SATO, a part of LIXIL, is a line of innovative, durable and affordable toilet solutions for a better and more hygienic toilet experience, designed for people living in rural and peri-urban areas. In 2012, one of the brands of LIXIL Corporation, American Standard received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for development of a low-cost toilet for pit latrines that led to the launch of the original SATO pan. Since then, more than 2.5 million units of SATO products have been shipped to over 25 countries, including India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, and Haiti.
LIXIL makes pioneering water and housing products that solve everyday, real-life challenges, making better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere. Drawing on our Japanese heritage, we create world-leading technology and innovate to make high quality products that transform homes. But the LIXIL difference is how we do this; through meaningful design, an entrepreneurial spirit, a dedication to improving accessibility for all, and responsible business growth. Our approach comes to life through industry leading brands, including INAX, GROHE, American Standard, and TOSTEM. Over 75,000 colleagues operating in more than 150 countries are proud to make products that touch the lives of more than a billion people every day.