Latrine possession, disposal of children's faeces and waste-water in 1015 households in 33 sites in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were studied in 1997. Assistants conducted interviews and observed the state and use of latrines, disposal of children's faeces, wastewater, and household socio-demographic characteristics. Latrine possession was 92.4% in Uganda, 95% in Kenya and 99.5% in Tanzania. In unpiped sites, 73.5% of Ugandan, 90.5% of Tanzanian and 95% of Kenyan households had latrines. Over 30% of latrines in rural Uganda were contaminated with faeces, compared with 10% in Tanzania. More latrines in urban Kenya and Uganda had contaminated surroundings than in the rural areas. The mean number of people using a toilet in the urban areas (10) was significantly higher than in rural areas (7), (F = 45.5; P < 0.001). Toilets in Kenya and Uganda were more likely to be fouled than in Tanzania. Households where the head was an educated professional or business person, or the toilet had a door, lid or concrete wall or floor or waste water was disposed of in the latrine, were less likely to have fouled toilets. Most households disposed of the faeces safely with a few placing them in the garden or elsewhere. The study emphasises the need to promote appropriate sanitation and hygiene.