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Why Shelters Matter

The lack of affordable quality shelters means fewer people purchase a toilet.

We were pretty excited last month when our local business partners sold their 100,000th toilet.  One hundred thousand toilets means we helped half a million people access safe sanitation and significantly reduced the risk of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, both of which can lead to death. One hundred thousand toilets means our messages about safe sanitation are getting through to people in Cambodia’s rural communities.  What began as a grassroots effort to help bring a toilet to every home now has real growing momentum.

So as the number of toilet sales inched higher, it had us thinking – what’s preventing us from reaching one million households?

Today, nearly 1.6 million people across Cambodia still remain without a toilet and one of the leading barriers – the lack of affordable shelters.  A family who seeks to invest in a latrine is often shocked when they are confronted with a USD $500 price tag for the materials and construction of a brick shelter and there are few other affordable options that are attractive and can withstand Cambodia’s annual monsoons.

So over the past year we’ve been working to make shelters as equally accessible as toilets because without the privacy a shelter provides, a toilet is, essentially, unusable. Towards the end of 2013 WaterSHED was awarded The Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge grant to design and test an improved shelter and we wanted to do this through our Hands Off program that uses local businesses to supply the market.

We are at the final stage of our design, having tested several prototypes using various materials including cement particle boards and aluminum.  Once complete, it will be the first shelter to be pre-fabricated, lightweight, flat-packed and easy to assemble without requiring any special tools.

Our potential customers and local business partners have been with us every step of the way.  Through focus groups and individual interviews we were able to determine consumer preferences for the look and feel of the shelter.

Now our goal is to begin manufacturing our newly designed shelter and bring it to market before the end of the year and we are looking for partners to help us not only mass-produce shelters for the Cambodian rural market, but help us reach the nearly 150 million people who still remain without a toilet across Southeast Asia and India.

Click on the link below to see our design in more detail and to learn more about this project contact us through our website.  To read more about our sanitation marketing program go to

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