Currently, 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation latrines that effectively separate excreta from human contact and 1.2 billion of them are forced to openly defecate. Access to improved sanitation facilities is critical. Lack of sanitation has significant health impacts on a family, especially on women and children, leading to a variety of illnesses including diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, Typhus fever, Typhoid, and Trachoma. Diarrhea caused by poor sanitation kills nearly 6,000 children a day, an annual toll of 2 million deaths, and the World Health Organization estimates that 90% of those deaths could be saved through prevention or better treatment. Additionally, poor sanitation is a financial drain on households and national economies and compromises gains made in education when children are unable to attend school.
Although open defecation rates have declined from 25% in 1990 to 17% in 2008, certain regions of the world have failed to make progress. Sanitation coverage is lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where 2/3 of people do not have access to improved sanitation. iDE’s involvement with improved sanitation began in Cambodia, which has 16% sanitation coverage. Additionally, Cambodia has the second to worst rural sanitation coverage outside of Africa, at only 8%. Furthermore, Cambodia loses approximately 7.2% of its GDP, USD $448 million a year due to poor sanitation. The Government is limiting its direct involvement in the sanitation market, leaving bilateral agencies, NGOs, and the local private sector as the primary actors on the ground.
The existing markets for rural sanitation in Cambodia are underdeveloped. Low demand and weak supply chains hinder the effective delivery of appropriate and affordable sanitation products and services. Private enterprises do not usually perceive sanitation to be an attractive market and do not invest in promoting latrines or developing new products or services. In turn, the lack of information and affordable latrine options keeps demand low. Nonetheless, the need for sanitation remains and the un-served market presents an extraordinary business opportunity for rural enterprises. It is in this context that iDE entered the sanitation sector in Cambodia, and has achieved significant success in facilitating the use of improved latrines amongst rural populations through a market-based approach. iDE also works in nine additional countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, providing the organization with an opportunity to transfer the successful Sanitation Marketing (SanMark) approach from Cambodia to other countries that are in equally dire need to improved sanitation.