iDE Global
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Markets for WASH

How to defeat diarrheal disease

When we told people that we planned to sell latrines, water filters, and handwashing devices to poor customers rather than just give them away, they didn’t believe it would work.

But we’ve proven that it does work, and that it works better than charity, because when people invest their own money, they’re more likely to embrace the change necessary to improve their lives.

In iDE’s flagship sanitation marketing program in Cambodia, the program cost per household decreased tenfold from its height of $326 per unit to $35 per unit.

The proof is in the progress

Since we began promoting markets for WASH, over 5.5 million individuals now have access to clean drinking water, improved toilets, and more knowledge about how to improve the health of their families.

A sanitation success story

Ho Thi Mai and her two children used to walk five minutes from their house—rain or shine—and dig a hole to relieve themselves. In Vietnam, open defecation has been a common practice in rural areas, but this is now changing due to increasing awareness of the public health dangers and increasing access to toilets. For $50, Ho Thi Mai was able to invest in a toilet. She said, “It is a lot of money, but it’s worth it.”


(Photo by Morgan Kelly Cowles/iDE)

Our WASH strategy

Our bottom line is to make substantial increases in people’s quality of life by effectively increasing WASH adoption and behavior change, which we believe can best be accomplished by using the market to deliver solutions that people want and can afford. To do so, we must understand what drives the existing market and where there are opportunities to make it more robust. We use human-centered design to inform our implementation approach, product designs, and business models.

Every solution has a unique balance of different strengths—speed, scale, sustainability, and depth of impact—designed to reach our objectives as efficiently as possible. The optimal balance between all these characteristics is based on a deep understanding of the local context and rigorous data collection and analysis from our measurement, evaluation, and learning teams.

We work closely with local entrepreneurs that are part of the communities being served, and we have a long-term presence in each country we have selected to deliver WASH solutions, which is maintained until our goals are met.

Every family deserves a toilet

A toilet isn’t a luxury in today’s world; it’s a basic necessity and a human right. At iDE, we’re making this the last generation to remember what it’s like to live without an adequate toilet.

Our approach is called ‘Building Markets for Sanitation.’ Through our human-centered design methodology, we connect to customers who let us know exactly what they need in order to invest in a toilet for their families. We then help local entrepreneurs re-tool to build and deliver these solutions. In seven countries—CambodiaBangladeshVietnamNepalEthiopiaBurkina Faso, and Ghana—we’re seeing a common trend: sales increase as iDE's costs per toilet decline over time.

Building Markets for Sanitation

Clean water is a fundamental human right

Access to clean water is necessary for a life of dignity and the realization of other basic human rights. But a third of the world suffers without it. We’re taking a unique approach to solve this crisis.

iDE established Hydrologic, a social enterprise that manufactures, distributes, and sells water filters in Cambodia. Hydrologic creates value for its customers—and for Cambodia as a whole—through improved public health, environmental benefits, stimulation of rural economic activity, and a commitment to ethical business practice.

Clean Water

Clean hands. Better Lives.

Handwashing is considered one of the most effective ways to reduce diarrheal diseases. That’s why we’re now developing integrated handwashing options in our new latrine shelters and looking for additional appropriate and affordable solutions that help encourage this behavior. The biggest barrier to handwashing is not always the availability of water or soap, but rather knowledge. Making the connection between dirty hands and disease is the first step. 

Hand Hygiene

WASH Publications

Check out these publications from our WASH team.


WASH Markets

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