New study highlights global sanitation gap

July 05, 2010

UK and Togo worlds apart on a basic human function

The stark contrast in sanitation standards between the UK and developing countries was underlined today (5 July) when research revealed that one in five of British single householders have at least two toilets, in comparison to residents of Togo, West Africa, where only 32 per cent of families have access to, or are able to use latrines. 

This harsh difference is underlined by the fact that in Togo there is on average just one lavatory for every 53 people, with only 120,000 toilets in a country of 5.8 million. In contrast, one of the UK’s biggest venues – Wembley stadium – has 2,618 toilets alone, more than any other venue in the world.1

Children using the hand-washing station at a school in Segbe, Togo

UNICEF / Togo / October 2008 / Phil Sandys

The study, commissioned by UNICEF – the world’s leading children’s organisation – which highlights the stark differences in toilet and sanitation facilities used by Britons and endured by those in the developing world. 

Poor sanitation is a life and death issue which leads directly to diseases including cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea, which kill 4,000 children each day. In Togo diarrhoea causes a third of all deaths among children under the age of five.

Championing this vital, life saving issue, The Co-operative Pharmacy has pledged £300,000 to support a UNICEF community development project in Togo, which will help to build 6,000 toilets in 300 villages, to improve the health of an estimated 110,000 children and their families.

A latrine blcok supplied by UNICEF to a school in Segbe, Togo

UNICEF / Togo / October 2008 / Phil Sandys

And while nearly 60 per cent of the population in Togo defecate in the open, Britons are choosey about where they go, despite having far more advanced sanitation facilities. 
The research released today found that, in the UK:

  • Man on toilet outside a branch of The Co-operative Pharmacy60 per cent of women chose privacy as the major factor in not wanting to use toilet facilities to go for a poo (compared to 40 per cent of men)
  • Three in five women prefer not to use facilities on a train or coach at all
  • Surprisingly, only 40 per cent of women were most put off by facilities being unhygienic (compared with nearly 60 per cent of men)

And it seems that young people are the nation’s most particular toilet users with:

  • Nearly a third of 16-25 year olds avoiding using office facilities, compared to only 12 per cent of 55-64 year olds. 
  • Other popular reasons for not using the toilet away from home included embarrassment or making a smell.

John Nuttall, Managing Director of The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “Sanitation is the greatest medical milestone of the last two centuries 2. The research puts into context just how lucky we are in the UK, yet demonstrates that we take for granted what is a life and death issue for some people.

“We strongly believe in championing sanitation in the developing world as our responsibilities as a co-operative business do not stop at caring for communities in the UK.”

Julie Weston, Director of Fundraising, UNICEF UK added: “The report highlights that across the world today, billions of people don’t have access to the most basic toilets. This isn’t just about comfort or privacy. Poor sanitation leads to illness, causes children, especially girls, to miss out on school, and in many cases leads to death. UNICEF believes this is wrong, and we are proud that The Co-operative Pharmacy has committed its support to help us put it right.”

The findings are revealed as The Co-operative Pharmacy launches an ethical strategy, pledging to help tackle global poverty, in addition to re-enforcing its commitment to responsible retailing, combating climate change and to care for local communities.  As part of The Co-operative Group, The Co-operative Pharmacy is committed to driving forward its social goals – tackling global poverty and combating climate change – at a local, national and global level.

Customers can support UNICEF’s work by making a donation at any branch of The Co-operative Pharmacy nationwide.

To find your nearest branch visit:

Additional information

1 Wembley stadium press pack ‘stats and facts’ "Doors finally open at new Wembley". BBC News. 2007-03-17.


Additional Togo facts:

  • 27% of the population does not have access to drinking water or latrines compared to virtually 100% improved sanitation in the UK.
  • Hand washing is not widespread in Togo and there have been cholera epidemics in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

2 According to the BMJ, sanitation is the greatest medical milestone since 1840 (The BMJ polled 11,000 people to vote for the most important breakthrough of the last two centuries after leading scientists picked 16 medical advances for a shortlist).


About the UNICEF sanitation project:

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for Togo, published for the period 2009-2011, 68% of families do not have access to or do not use latrines.  In order to promote basic sanitation and reduce water-borne diseases in Togo, the UNICEF project, supported by The Co-operative Pharmacy, will introduce the Community Led Total Sanitation (CTLS) approach, encouraging communities and schools to examine their own state in terms of hygiene and sanitation, their practices in terms of defecation and management of their school environment. The approach is designed to mobilise communities into reaching and maintaining an ‘open defecation free’ status in 300 villages in the Savanes, Kara and Maritime regions of Togo.



UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit


About The Co-operative

Part of The Co-operative Group – the world’s largest consumer co-operative – The Co-operative Pharmacy is the UK’s third largest pharmacy retail chain with nearly 800 branches.

The Co-operative Group stands apart from other major retailers in the UK as a business which is owned, not by a small group of shareholders, but by more than five million consumers. With core interests in food, financial services, travel, pharmacy, funerals and farms, it has an annual turnover of £14 billion, employs 123,000 staff and operates over 5,000 retail trading outlets handling more than 20 million weekly transactions.  

Following the acquisition of the Somerfield supermarket chain in March 2009, The Co-operative Food is the fifth largest food retailer. The Co-operative Financial Services is one of the largest and most diversified financial mutual businesses, operating The Co-operative Bank, The Co-operative Insurance and Britannia.

The Co-operative is the UK’s number one provider of funeral services, the third largest retail pharmacy chain, a leading travel retailer, supplying the travel needs of more than three million people annually, and is the UK’s largest farmer.

Among its other businesses are The Co-operative Motor Group, The Co-operative Electrical and The Co-operative Legal Services.


For further information contact:


UNICEF media contact:

Katie Morrison or Gemma Parkin – 0207 336 8922 /


The Co-operative Group

Alexandra Anderson
Senior Public Relations Officer
Tel: 0161 266 3416

Craig Noonan
PR Manager
Tel: 0161 2663589