Everyone Needs Somewhere to Go: World Toilet Day 2016

Posted on by Madison Walter, CDC Global Health Student Intern


Madison Walter, CDC Global Health Student Intern
Madison Walter, CDC Global Health Student Intern

We use toilets every day – at home, school, and work – yet 40% of the world’s population does not have this luxury.  Clean and safe toilets are more than just a place to use the restroom.  They are essential for health, human dignity, and improved education.   Sadly, 2.4 billion people are still using inadequate forms of sanitation, which in many ways represents a hidden public health crisis. Among these people, almost 1 billion face the indignity of defecating outside without privacy. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals include a target to ensure universal access to clean and working toilets by 2030, making sanitation a global development priority. To raise awareness of this issue, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 19 as World Toilet Day.

CDC’s Emergency Response and Recovery Branch (ERRB) has joined the United Nations and other development partners to reach the Sustainable Development Goal by evaluating the safety and acceptability of urine-diverting dry toilets (UDDTs).  These types of toilets collect feces and urine separately for treatment, and because they are installed above ground, they are appropriate for areas where traditional options (e.g., dug pit latrines) are not feasible. This increases the potential for access to clean and safe toilets in difficult environments, such as flood-prone or dry areas.

In 2014, CDC was awarded a grant from Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC), an organization working to improve health outcomes by strengthening the evidence for health interventions in humanitarian crises. This grant funds a study of UDDTs in a refugee camp setting to provide guidance on their potential use in humanitarian crises.

Urine-Diverting Dry Toilet
Urine-Diverting Dry Toilet

CDC‘s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) is also involved in efforts to improve sanitation by partnering with a start-up company, Sanivation, to turn human waste into fuel.  In 2013, Sanivation received the CDC Innovation Fund Award to begin a waste-to-fuel conversion project in Kenya.  Instead of dumping human waste, Sanivation can transform it into fuel using solar power, an inexpensive way to effectively treat human waste.  This method of waste treatment has worked in refugee camp settings and provides a cost-effective way to reuse human waste. Sanivation plans to expand to other regions of East Africa with the goal of serving over 1 million people by 2020.

Through these efforts, CDC is working to increase the evidence base needed to provide clean and safe toilets in developing countries with limited resources. CDC’s efforts to improve sanitation are part of a worldwide initiative to break the silence surrounding the sanitation crisis.

To learn more about CDC efforts and other current sanitation initiatives visit:


Posted on by Madison Walter, CDC Global Health Student Intern

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Page last reviewed: January 9, 2022
Page last updated: January 9, 2022
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