healthHealth and Medicine

This Toilet Funded By The Bill Gates Foundation Could Save Hundreds Of Thousands Of Lives


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

The SaTo in action. American Standard Brands.

As crazy as it sounds, a toilet could help change the world for the better.

Poor sanitation is a serious killer across the developing world, causing 1.7 million deaths each year, around a third of which are children under the age of five. Much of this is because over 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a proper toilet. That’s quite a maddening thought, considering there are around the same number of smartphone owners in the world.


However, that could all change thanks to the SaTo Pan – a simple, low cost, and easy to install hygienic toilet pan. Each SaTo pan (pronounced SAH-toh) is made out of plastic and costs as little as $1.50.  

It works much like a trapdoor: When you do your business into the pan, the weight causes the trapdoor to open, dropping the waste below. Using an incredibly straightforward counterweight, the door then flips back shut. It's basically a simple way to flush a toilet without any water. It also utilizes mechanical and water seals to close off the toilet pits from the open air. This not only saves your eyes and nose from an unpleasant experience, it also drastically reduces disease transmission by preventing insects from landing in the pits and flying around.

So far, over a million of these pans have been donated to 14 different countries across the world and at least 800,000 have been installed in Bangladesh, Uganda, Haiti, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

The toilet was designed by American Standards and boosted by numerous grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of their wider Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program that aims to develop initiatives and technology to challenge sanitation problems in the developing world.


Of course, this little blue toilet is just the start of the solution. On top of other technology and design developments such as this, they are also working on education and public awareness, as well as addressing government policy and “the bigger picture”. This can be as simple as knowing what water to drink to the development of large infrastructure projects.

Check out the short documentary below by LIXIL (who helped manufacture SaTo) about some of the sanitation success stories from the developing world due to these initiatives.


healthHealth and Medicine
  • tag
  • water,

  • disease,

  • illness,

  • toilet,

  • cholera,

  • Bill Gates,

  • sanitation,

  • developing world,

  • Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation