Aidex Voices

AidEx 2015 exhibitor Dunster House is a supplier of timber garden products across the UK, which has branched out into humanitarian work, providing solutions to the sanitation challenges faced by vulnerable communities every day. We caught up with the company’s founder Chris Murphy, to hear about their ongoing work with Oxfam to improve sanitation solutions in humanitarian situations, as well their innovative collaboration with the University of the West of England.

More than 2.5 billion people worldwide still lack access to adequate sanitation - something many of us take for granted. This can have devastating effects. According to the World Health Organisation, diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. Solutions are desperately needed, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last year, we spoke about how exhibiting our first Eco Composting Toilet at AidEx in 2013 led to us meeting representatives from Oxfam. The feedback we’ve received from the international aid and development community has been invaluable. Dunster House received a grant from Oxfam to produce a prototype latrine and we are now proud to be an Oxfam supplier of Raised Latrines and Latrine Superstructures to countries affected by conflict. This includes areas such as South Sudan, where thousands of people are living in temporary camps or small villages without access to water and proper toilets.

It can be difficult to convey just how wide-ranging the effects of poor sanitation are. These are social as much as they are health-related. For instance, research by Oxfam in Liberia following the Ebola crisis found that concerns over school sanitation facilities, particularly for girls, was stopping parents from letting their children return to school. Specific social and cultural norms need to be addressed when devising solutions – for instance, we take care to help build private, clean and gender splits facilities which can help assuage these concerns. 

Working with Oxfam means we’ve been able to combine our technical knowledge with their sector-specific expertise, to provide better solutions on the ground. But it’s also important to keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. That’s why we’re taking part in a project run by the University of the West of England, where our new emergency urinal superstructure is being used by scientists to generate electricity from urine. It’s a potentially game-changing development, which shows how the right partnerships between the right people have the power to transform lives.