Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the launch of a strategy called ‘Reinventing the Toilet’ to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of poor people in the developing world.
Through this approach the foundation and its partners are working to develop new tools and technologies that address every aspect of sanitation—from the development of waterless, hygienic toilets that do not rely on sewer connections to pit emptying to waste processing and recycling. Many of the solutions being developed by the Foundation involve cutting-edge technology that could turn human waste into fuel to power local communities, fertilizer to improve crops, or even safe drinking water.
In a keynote address at the 2011 AfricaSan Conference in Kigali, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s Global Development Program, called on donors, governments, the private sector, and NGOs to address the urgent challenge, which affects nearly 40 percent of the world’s population. Flush toilets are unavailable to the vast majority in the developing world, and billions of people lack a safe, reliable toilet or latrine.
“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,” Burwell said in her speech at AfricaSan, the third African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene, organized by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).
“But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”