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Our Global Voices Posts

Bringing Clean, Safe, and Innovative Sanitation Services to East Africa

FeaturedPosted on by Eric Mintz, MD, MPH
Photo courtesy of Sanivation
Eric Mintz, MD, MPH, Team Lead, Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Epidemiology Team, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, NCEZID
Eric Mintz, MD, MPH, Team Lead, Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Epidemiology Team, Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, NCEZID

Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you use a toilet each day? We often take it for granted that when we “need to go,” a toilet will be nearby. However, throughout the world, an estimated 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation—which means they do not have access to toilets or safe latrines, or to services such as garbage collection and wastewater treatment and disposal.  Without toilets or latrines, people who “need to go” have no other option than to relieve themselves on open land or in bodies of water. This can lead to contamination of a community’s drinking water source, making the water unsafe to drink.

CDC is committed to increasing access to basic sanitation services, especially in underdeveloped countries where resources are limited. When a start-up group of recent university graduates approached CDC with an innovative idea—to provide toilets in households in need and use the human waste to make fuel briquettes—a new, collaborative partnership began.

Turning Human Waste into Fuel

Established in 2011, Sanivation installs toilet facilities in Kenyan households for free to subscribers who pay a small monthly fee that guarantees on-call and twice weekly visits by Sanivation service representatives. The representatives collect the waste, and Sanivation treats it with solar thermal energy to create low-cost briquettes for cooking and heating homes. The briquettes are replacing traditional charcoal, preserving approximately 88 trees per ton sold. The briquettes burn longer than standard coal and may let off less particulates, leading to less pollution and better public health. The company plans to expand to other parts of East Africa with the goal of serving over 1 million people by 2020.

CDC first teamed up with Sanivation in 2013 with the support of a CDC Innovation Fund Award. The Award allowed CDC staff to help Sanivation examine how well and under what conditions (such as temperature and time) solar thermal treatment kills microbes in human waste. It also provided funding for a pilot project in the Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya. The pilot helped the group determine that the model of in-home toilets, waste collection, and reuse was workable in a refugee setting, where space is limited and there are a lack of cost-effective ways to treat waste.

Photo courtesy of Sanivation
Photo courtesy of Sanivation

After this successful first collaboration, CDC was able to support Sanivation with a supplemental award, which is being used to develop and refine health and safety guidelines for workers employed in global waste collection, treatment, and reuse. Having these guidelines will help companies like Sanivation expand while keeping their workers safe.

What’s Next?

Innovative partnerships such as this one are critical for CDC to continue to work toward improving access to sanitation and hygiene services across the globe. Future projects with Sanivation include comparing whether composting toilets or solar sanitation work better to kill harmful germs in human waste. This is especially important when considering germs that are relatively resistant to inactivation, like the parasites Cryptosporidium and Ascaris lumbricoides. Another planned project will explore whether the combination of one of Sanivation’s in-home toilets with an in-home handwashing station could lead to more frequent handwashing after toileting and at other key times.

FeaturedPosted on by Eric Mintz, MD, MPHLeave a commentTags , , , ,

Antimicrobial Resistance—A Global Imperative


Antibiotics were the superhero of the 20th century—saving millions of lives around the world from bacterial infections including pneumonia, foodborne illness, and healthcare associated infections. However, microbes can evolve to resist the effects of drugs that prevent and treat a range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Antibiotic resistance is a natural Read More >

Posted on by Benjamin J. Park, MDLeave a commentTags , , , ,

The State of the World’s Antibiotics: Resistance Rates Rising, Stewardship is the Solution


Antibiotic resistance is a problem that must be faced squarely in every country in 2015. The good news is that every country can take action and these national actions will benefit the local population. That’s the conclusion my colleagues and I at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) were proud to release Read More >

Posted on by Ramanan Laxminarayan2 CommentsTags ,

CDC Recognizes Women and Stroke for World Stroke Day

Blanche and Kelly

As a woman, I am particularly interested in this year’s World Stroke Day focus. I am a woman and stroke can affect me, my family members, my patients’ families and women around the world. Worldwide, there are 15 million strokes each year, 10 million of which will end in death or permanent disability. Women have Read More >

Posted on by Jennifer L. Foltz, MD, MPH1 CommentTags , ,

Two Vaccines for One Polio-free World

Great fingermarks Mackenzie Andre Niger 2014

Polio was once considered one of the most frightening diseases in the world until a team led by Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first successful polio vaccine. World Polio Day, held every October 24 to celebrate Salk’s birthday, is an opportunity for everyone working to eradicate polio to renew their commitment to creating a polio-free Read More >

Posted on by Lee Hampton, MD, Medical Officer, Vaccine Introduction Team, Global Immunization Division5 CommentsTags , , , ,

Innovation and Commitment Needed to Turn Back the HIV Epidemic Among Girls 

A girl leans against a tree in the village of Usoma, Kenya.

Director of CDC’s Division of HIV & TB Shannon Hader on 2015 International Day of the Girl Every year, an astonishing 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV. That’s more than 1,000 every day. These numbers are worth noting any day, but it’s especially relevant today as we recognize International Day of Read More >

Posted on by Shannon Hader, Director of CDC’s Division of HIV & TBLeave a commentTags , , , , ,

Experiences from the Field: Innovative Approaches to Improving Heart Health in Malawi

Dr. Alice Maida (2ndd from right) and staff from MSH and the Malawi Ministry of Health visiting a high burden HIV clinic in rural Malawi.

As a Medical Program Specialist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Malawi, I provide HIV technical support at the national and site level. My public health practitioner work with the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) national HIV program and PEPFAR implementing partners has provided many opportunities to engage in implementation science Read More >

Posted on by Alice Maida, MD, MPH, CDC MalawiLeave a commentTags , , , ,

September 28 is World Rabies Day

Rabies and rabies-like viruses are found in bats on every inhabited continent. CDC teams work to train local capacity on methods of assessing wildlife for zoonotic pathogens. These include not just virus detection, but also on practices to stay safe. (Vietnam)

Rabies! It is one of the most feared diseases in the world, and for good reason. Rabies has a fatality rate of nearly 100%, and it causes the most human deaths of any zoonotic disease, that is, diseases which can be spread between animals and humans. Each year, an estimated 59,000 people die from rabies Read More >

Posted on by Ryan M. Wallace, DVM, MPH1 CommentTags , , , , ,

Wipe out polio in Africa for good

Great drops L Esapa

This blog was originally posted on on August 21, 2015 This week, we detailed in a report with cautious optimism that polio will be gone not only in Nigeria but in all of Africa. Only a few years ago, Nigeria was Africa’s last outpost of polio and seemed to be losing the battle against Read More >

Posted on by CDC Director Dr. Tom FriedenLeave a commentTags , ,

China’s Adult Tobacco Survey Captures a Comprehensive View of Tobacco Use in 14 Cities

China is the most populous country in the world, as well as the largest consumer of cigarettes. With over 300 million smokers, China has the greatest public health benefit to gain from implementing proven tobacco prevention and control strategies. In China, some public health officials have championed local municipalities to engage in tobacco prevention and Read More >

Posted on by Darryl Konter, MS, Health Communication Specialist and Luhua Zhao, MS, Statistician, CDC Office on Smoking and HealthLeave a commentTags , ,