Busting for better sanitation

World Vision is partnering with Sri Lankan communities to improve sanitation – and putting the needs of people with disabilities at the centre.

Provide relief where it's most needed

This project funded by the Australian Government through


1 in 3

schools globally lack access to safe water and sanitation.

9.1 percent

of the global disease burden could be prevented with improved water, sanitation and hygiene.

5.5 billion

US dollars, or 1-2.5 percent of GDP, is lost every year due to poor sanitation

according to a 2012 World Bank study of 18 African countries.

One in three people around the world don't have a safe place to go to the toilet.

That's approximately 2.4 billion people – in fact, more people have access to mobile phones than to safe, hygienic and private sanitation. It's not just a little bit awkward. It’s people being denied a human right. Lack of access to safe sanitation threatens people’s dignity, and can have lifelong consequences for their health, education and ability to earn an income. 

But the solution isn't always as simple as just building toilets.

Each community has it's own unique context, challenges and considerations. That's why we work in partnership with community leaders and combine our expertise with theirs to create community-led and community-owned solutions. We invest in communities long-term, and equip people with the skills to ensure projects are sustainable even after we move on.

With this approach, we reach more than two million people per year with sanitation – even more people than we do with clean water.

Leading a movement for safe sanitation in Sri Lanka

The CSWASH (Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) project in Sri Lanka is aiming to ensure 3,800 households and 15 schools can gain access to safe, clean water for the first time. It's one part of a larger movement to improve water and sanitation around the world – the Australian Government's CSWASH Fund is contributing to similar projects in 19 countries, intending to directly benefit at least 3.5 million people in five years.

Here in Sri Lanka, we've put a particular focus on the needs of vulnerable community members – including women and people with disabilities. We're working to build and renovate accessible toilets in important community spaces – such as a hospital and a bus station – as well as enabling people with disabilities to build their own accessible toilets at home.

We're also empowering community groups to learn more about the importance of clean water, improved sanitation and safe hygiene practices, so they can advocate for behaviour change and greater investment in better health for their communities.

Ensuring equal access for everyone

The Sri Lankan Civil War, fought from 1983 to 2009, left a high prevalence of people with disabilities in this region. Living in poverty, many of them lack appropriate facilities for safe water and sanitation – a basic human right.

People with disabilities are often isolated from community life. They can feel ashamed to leave their house and mix with others, and those with impaired mobility struggle due to a lack of mobility devices such as wheelchairs. They are often unwelcome in community forums, which impacts their ability to be vocal participants. There is little knowledge of sign language, leaving those with speech or hearing disabilities unable to communicate.

By partnering with CBM Australia and NPCODA to implement this project, World Vision is working to ensure we prioritise the wants and needs of people with disabilities. We're partnering with local government to build their capacity in designing toilets and improving infrastructure for people with disabilities. Aside from the core goal of improving community sanitation, we're also aiming to improve community awareness of people with disabilities and to empower those who have previously been ostracised.



Years ago, Manjula sustained a severe injury to her right foot in a mortar attack. With no toilet at home, she had to walk over a kilometre into the jungle. She had no privacy, and men would often follow her and her two young children. The painful journey was even harder during the wet season. During her pregnancies, Manjula struggled with balance and leg pain. She needed assistance from her husband, mother and sister, which embarrassed her deeply.

Through CS WASH, Manjula was able to hire local labour to help her husband build an accessible home bathroom. We also provided technical support to the contractors, to ensure the bathroom met her needs.

Now, Manjula feels safer. She can easily keep her weight off her injured foot when using the toilet. With proper handwashing facilities, she can protect her children from disease. And now that she no longer feels like a burden to others, her confidence has soared.




Sakunthula, who has a prosthetic leg, is often seen out and about in her community, meeting with different families. In a region where people with disabilities are often isolated from community life, Sakunthula's role as an active community advocate is remarkable – and she's not the only one. World Vision has been training and equipping people like Sakunthula to assess the needs of people with disabilities in their community, as part of a water, sanitation and hygiene project with a focus on accessibility for people living with disabilities.

Sakunthula uses a DFAT-funded mobile survey system to conduct interviews with people like the Thanarajan family, who have two children with a disability. The results of her work help World Vision understand who is most in need of assistance.

Sakunthula's active and visible role in creating change for her community is helping to shift the perception of people with disability and their ability.



Thanujiya (pictured here with her older sister), and her brother Thamilperiyan both  live with a nerve condition that makes it impossible to walk and balance. In the past, they have had to ask family members to help them use a drop toilet far from their home. It's difficult and dangerous to access, especially during the wet season. The poor hygiene of the toilet left both children vulnerable to infection.

When World Vision started the CSWASH project in their community, Thanujiya's family were visited to assess their needs. They were then provided with financial support to build a new, accessible toilet close to their home. It has an access ramp, flushing toilet, septic tank and shower system which will benefit the whole family. Most of all, it will make Thanujiya and her brother's lives much easier and more comfortable.

“The new toilet is comfortable, clean and protected,” says Thanujiya.

Manjula's story

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