Around the world, one million children die each year from diseases that could likely be prevented with better sanitation
Quite effective at their central task of quickly and cleanly removing human waste, toilets have drastically reduced the incidence of death from parasites and bacteria over the last 200 years. But for some 40 percent of the world, a lack of toilets remains a problem.
In response, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced last week a major new initiative to reinvent the toilet so that they can be easily distributed and used in places without a sewer system. At AfricaSan, a major conference on sanitation and hygiene, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Gates Foundation's President of Global Development, said:
The second largest killer of children under five is diarrheal disease, which is responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million children every year, more than AIDS and malaria combined. Most of these deaths could be prevented with proper sanitation, combined with safe drinking water and better hygiene.
Let me repeat that. More than 1 million children die each year for lack of a basic technology which is now more than 200 years old.
As part of this new initiative, The Gates Foundation has awarded eight teams grants totaling $3 million to reinvent the toilet. The goal is a toilet that does not rely on sewage infrastructure, can transform human waste into energy and reusable water, and costs less than five cents per user per day. This is classic Gates Foundation thinking, even down to the key metric: cents per users per day.