World Toilet Day: Flushing Poverty Away - Acumen

World Toilet Day: Flushing Poverty Away

By Raphaela Sapire on November 19, 2013

Most of us don’t consider the implications of having a functioning toilet each and every time we use one. We rarely worry over where we’ll go when nature calls. There’s no concern over whether or not the waste will end up in our drinking water or if we’ll contract illness due to the inability to wash our hands. Yet, for the one in three people around the world who lack access to adequate sanitation, these seeming non-entities are serious daily struggles.

World Toilet Day on November 19th highlights the importance of improved sanitation and its role in bettering the health and dignity of the 2.5 billion people living without access to a clean and functioning toilet.

At Acumen, we invest in for-profit social enterprises that can rapidly scale access to safe water and provide sanitation. We recognize that water and sanitation play an essential role in ending global poverty. Without adequate sanitation, human waste pollutes surface water, and a contaminated water supply harbors life threatening diseases. Did you know that more children die each year from diarrhea than from malaria, aids, and measles combined? By improving the quality of water supplies, sanitation, and personal hygiene, we can work to eliminate this leading cause of worldwide child mortality.

The United Nations Human Rights Council declared that clean drinking water and sanitation are human rights that are necessary gateways to the enjoyment of all other human rights. Yet, the world remains off track for the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sanitation target; to date, only 63% of the population has improved sanitation facilities. If we are to reach the MDG sanitation target of providing 75 percent of humanity with improved sanitation facilities by 2015, we must further identify and invest in high impact social enterprises that aim to solve these problems.

That’s why Acumen invested in Sanergy, a company that has created a sustainable sanitation cycle in Kenya.


Sanergy builds a network of high-quality “Fresh Life” branded toilets and franchises them to local micro-entrepreneurs. Sanergy employees collect waste from the toilets daily and deliver it to a central processing facility where the waste is converted into organic fertilizer for farmers. Sanergy’s model ensures increased access to improved sanitation facilities in slums while also providing a safe way to treat human waste and capitalize on its inherent value.


Multiple organizations such as WaterHealth International,, and WaterAid are taking on the challenges of providing universal clean water. However, charity alone will not solve this misfortune. In order to truly solve the big problem of poverty, we must work together to eliminate all of the factors that enable it. That’s why at Acumen we invest patient capital into innovative, market-based solutions that undercut an array of global challenges, and ultimately empower the impoverished with the resources to solve these problems. In the end, the opportunities that combine civil, government, and community involvement will prove to be poverty’s ultimate undoing.

World Toilet Day is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of improved sanitation for those who want and need it most. Join us in our efforts by sharing this story on Twitter and Facebook.

To learn more about our investment strategy in the water and sanitation sector, check out all of our sanitation investments.

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