Tackling poverty one toilet at a time

Sanitation is the single most cost-effective public health intervention to reduce child mortality.
(World Bank, 2006)

Every year, over 800,000 children under five die from some form of diarrhoea based disease; dirty hands, flies and contaminated earth make home a deadly place to be. Our ecosan toilets have transformed the lives of 350,000 people in India and Africa. Whole communities are healthier, adults can go to work, and children can stay in school. By earning more and spending less on medication, people are much better off. This all adds up to a brighter future full of opportunity for everyone.

Sponsor Mark as he rows across the Atlantic for Sanitation First

Dignity & Respect

It’s not just about toilets; it’s about respect. Thanks to our supporters, we’re able to give more respect, dignity and hope to some of the poorest people in the world.

Why Toilets?


2.4 billion people worldwide do not have a toilet; the consequences of this kills more children than Aids, Malaria, and Measles combined. Just one gram of human poo can contain 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. This is a huge and constant risk to public health and the only solution is better sanitation.


Women in India routinely risk their own safety because of the fact that they do not have access to safe sanitation. This is because women are often attacked while they are looking in rural areas for places to defecate; their vulnerability is heightened as they venture out alone when it is dark, in order to preserve their privacy and dignity.


Imagine a school with no toilets. Valuable time is lost and unnecessary stress is created every time a child has to find somewhere to go to the toilet. One of the biggest factors causing girls to leave education 
is unsafe toilet practices. Once a toilet is introduced into a school, we see a 15% increase in girls’ attendance rate.

A global sanitation crisis

We currently live in a world where more people in India own a mobile phone than a toilet. This shocking lack of basic sanitation leads to the contraction of diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio, which are all carried by faecally contaminated water.

Too weak to attend work or school, many people are forced to buy expensive medicine, becoming trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. As well as being a public health issue, sanitation is also, undoubtedly, a major contributor to social injustice and poverty.


In our opinion ecosan is the ultimate eco-toilet. Why? Because of the unique way it works to safely convert the waste into a soil conditioning compost and fertiliser.

The nutrients found in an adult’s human waste contain the same amount of nutrients that are required to grow enough cereal to sustain that same adult.

It’s almost as if nature intended people to recycle their waste and create more food!

We believe that composting ecosan toilets are the ultimate in sustainability. By producing humanure, ecosan works with, and not against nature, benefitting people and the environment.


Western style flush toilets rely on a huge sewer infrastructure and a constant supply of water to function. The 2.4 billion people without toilets, however, can’t wait for these to be supplied. Ecosan toilets require minimal infrastructure. We expect our ecosan toilets to have a 30-year life span and when you calculate the cost per person per year, ecosan starts to look very attractive indeed.

Fertiliser Crisis

The earth is losing 25 billion tons of topsoil every year, which simply cannot be replaced with chemical fertilisers. The New Scientist has noted that: “All farmable soil could be gone in 60 years. Given soil grows 95 per cent of our food, and sustains human life, this is a huge problem. Many would argue soil degradation is the most critical environmental threat to humans”.

If all 774 million people in India waiting for household toilets stood in a line, the queue would stretch from Earth, to the Moon, and beyond.

Our Work

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.

We will always employ the right system to best suit the needs of our users, and our work fits broadly into three categories: community, schools and family.

Sanitation First toilets built

People using our toilets every day

Number of uses per day

Tonnes of compost produced


Since 2010, Sanitation First has been developing an innovative solution designed to function efficiently in the challenging environments of space-restricted slums; we call this our Inner-City Sanitation model (ICS), which has grown to 6,000 users.


Sanitation First has built 158 school ecosan blocks in primary, middle and senior schools, providing relief from fear and shame to over 155,000 children in India. Our ecosan toilets give these children a safe, clean and hygienic place to go to the toilet.


Children often tell their family about their new school toilet, which motivates local communities to request toilets for their homes. We often find that school toilets are the catalyst for a whole village to achieve the dream of everyone using a toilet.

Sanitation First

Tackling Poverty one Toilet at a Time

PO Box 5328


BA13 9BR


- 21 hours ago

@paulsilkywhite: PLEASE RT? This Saturday I'm an anomaly on this astonishing bill including @katerusby @josierones @scottmatthewsuk @WilHodgson @thedavideagle @Harbottle_Jonas and many more in aid of @Women_and_Girls. https://t.co/W0bzbRBGRs https://t.co/rELm7QYZ7o
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- 21 hours ago

@Women_and_Girls: We’ve received loads of great support for our virtual festival from the #Chippenham community, where 3 of our trustees and our friends @Melt_Prod are based 💚 Tickets are available at https://t.co/BbYcgnJEgo @OneChippenham @Chippenhamtcl @OliverPhippsCEM https://t.co/aIFPbLLk93
h J R

- 21 hours ago

@thedavideagle: From periods to potatoes, via adolescent philosophising, and of course herbal tea. The David Eagle Podcast with Kathryn from the charity @Women_and_Girls ahead of their festival on April 17, with me, @katerusby @josierones & lots more. https://t.co/tw9oCG0N7A
h J R

- 3 days ago

@Women_and_Girls: 1 week to go until our virtual festival organised with @Melt_Prod! We'd love for you to join us - head to https://t.co/2ceEUrfJyn to grab your ticket now! #periodpoverty #periodequality #periodequity #mhmmatters #menstrualhygienematters #endperiodpoverty https://t.co/fzJRy2Es6X
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