WaterAid America in New York City has announced a three-year, $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of advocacy efforts on behalf of millions of people living without toilets or sanitation facilities.
The organization will use the grant to support initiatives to increase access to basic sanitation services led by the governments of Ghana, India, and Senegal. In addition, the funds will be used to help ensure that the United States, the world's largest donor country, supports improved accountability and data collection with respect to WASH efforts in those countries and is focused on solutions that highlight the linkages between sanitation and other health efforts, including improved nutrition and ending preventable child deaths.
"Investing in advocacy around toilets and sanitation is one of the smartest, most effective ways we have to combat extreme poverty," said WaterAid America CEO David Winder. "Health, quality of life, and poverty levels are radically impacted when people, especially women and girls, have access to toilets and hygiene education."
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated $220 billion would be returned to the global economy each year if the world were to achieve universal access to sanitation. Development aid for toilets and sanitation, however, is significantly less relative to other development sectors such as health and education.
"The sanitation crisis cannot be solved by any one organization alone," said Lisa Schechtman, WaterAid America's director of policy and advocacy. "WaterAid firmly believes that governments have a responsibility to their citizens to ensure that toilets and sanitation are available to everyone. We look forward to continuing to advocate for change exactly where it’s needed most."
Source: "WaterAid Steps Up Advocacy on Lack of Toilets." WaterAid Press Release 01/09/2014.
Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the piece, Brian challenges the notion that high-tech solutions for WASH are inherently more impactful than simple innovations and offers examples of low-cost approaches in sanitation that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports. The post originally appeared on the Foundation’s blog, Impatient Optimists.
For many, the name Bill Gates is synonymous with high-tech. They figure if Bill Gates is involved in a project, it must involve complex advanced technology, in which case it’s probably expensive.
But the fact is that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t look for the flashiest solutions, it looks for the ones likely to make the biggest impact on the most people possible.
Those of us focused on Water, Sanitation & Hygiene know that we’ve got our work cut out for us. With 2.5 billion people lacking access to adequate toilets and another 2.1 billion of the urban poor using sanitation services in which waste is disposed of poorly and ends up contaminating their communities, the need for solutions is huge.
So when someone says they can build a plastic toilet pan for just $1.50 to keep latrines more hygienic, we listen. And when someone else comes up with a way to charge cell phones with urine, we listen to that too.
American Standard’s SaTo toilet pan is a simple plastic device that fits into latrines. When water is poured in, a trapdoor at the bottom shuts before all the water flows through, sealing the edges. This contraption not only keeps out flying insects that spread diseases like cholera, it also makes the latrine smell better for users. In fact, Popular Science just picked the SaTo as one of the “Best of What’s New” products of 2013.
A very different innovation is being driven by a group of British scientists who've found a way to produce enough electricity to charge a cell phone by using a microbial fuel cell that runs on urine. While this might seem a bit absurd, the reality is that many people in developing countries have limited access to electricity and struggle to charge phones that have become important in their lives. Therefore, a solution that addresses both human waste management and the need for electricity is worth looking at.
When it comes to sanitation solutions, the question shouldn’t be whether to go high-tech or low-tech. The question should be what is going to do the most for people in need.
A few weeks ago, the first winner was announced for the Sarphati Sanitation Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to global sanitation and public health through entrepreneurship. It went to Sanergy, which has developed a novel business model based on building and servicing clean, modular toilets in the slums of Nairobi.
Sanergy franchises its facilities to local entrepreneurs who earn money through fees or membership plans. Every day, Sanergy collects the waste, takes it to a processing plant, and converts it into organic fertilizer and other products. It’s a model that creates much-needed jobs and profits, while also reducing the incidence of deadly diarrhea and disease.
Another finalist for the Sarphati prize was iDE Cambodia, which also works to bring safe latrines to more people. By providing one-stop shopping and simplified construction at a better price, they are offering households in rural Cambodia access to “Easy Latrines,” which provide a healthier environment and a greatly improved quality of life.
Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, particularly in the area of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene. Sometimes it’s about designing new products, other times it’s about creating a new business model. The key to achieving impact will be to listen to the needs and desires of consumers, who are ultimately the ones who will embrace, use, and sustain safe sanitation.
To learn more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy, visit here.
In June of this year, the UN General Assembly officially designated November 19 as World Toilet Day. This declaration was the culmination of efforts by the World Toilet Organization (WTO), which has been celebrating the day since 2001 to raise awareness of the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to basic sanitation. In August, Jack Sims, the founder of the WTO, wrote a post on WASHfunders.org describing the events surrounding the UN’s official recognition of World Toilet Day and explaining the tongue-in-cheek strategies that his organization uses to bring greater attention to the world’s sanitation crisis.
In celebration of the day, we’re lifting up recent philanthropic initiatives focused on sanitation:
- In August, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it will expand its ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’ [PDF] to China. The program, launched in 2011, is aimed at supporting the research and development of inexpensive toilets that process waste into energy and water.
- In April, Sesame Workshop announced a $2 million grant, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote hygiene and sanitation practices in high-need areas of Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria. The grant supports the development of media that deliver culturally appropriate messages around positive sanitation behaviors.
- The Stone Family Foundation, based in the United Kingdom, authorized several grants in 2012 for basic sanitation, including a $2.1 million gift to iDE Cambodia for their ‘Sanitation Marketing Scale Up Project’, which supports local supply chains in the production, marketing, and selling of latrines to the rural poor.
- Another grant from the Stone Family Foundation, also issued in 2012, committed $868,416 to WaterAid Tanzania for two initiatives: 1) a program using a combination of communication around behavior change and sanitation marketing to increase demand for unsubsidized latrines, and 2) a project to develop a local economy in Dar es Salaam for emptying sludge from household latrines.
- The Laird Norton Family Foundation, a Seattle-based family foundation, awarded several grants in 2012 to expand access to sanitation, including a $25,000 grant to El Porvenir for the construction of double pit latrines in Nicaragua.
These grants illustrate the range of innovative ways foundations are supporting improved sanitation, from developing social marketing campaigns to changing behavior to funding research that will expand options for affordable sanitation services. For more information on how foundations are investing in sanitation, as well as other areas within the WASH sector, take a look at our funding map. New grants are added on a regular basis.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have partnered to set up a joint trust fund to improve access to sanitation in Asia and the Pacific. Announced at World Water Week, the new Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund will receive a $15 million investment from the Gates Foundation and will leverage more than $28 million in investments from ADB by 2017.
The Trust Fund aims to increase non-sewered sanitation and develop septage management solutions through funding innovative projects and supporting policies for low-income urban communities across Asia. The Trust Fund will be part of ADB’s Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF). Over the last seven years, WFPF has invested $2.5 billion in WASH projects. Through initiatives such as Grand Challenges Exploration and Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, the Gates Foundation has funded 85 development and research projects on sanitation.
View the infographic to learn about the Trust Fund’s goals.
Read ADB’s press release for additional details.
Editor’s Note: This infographic illustrates the toll that Western toilets take on the world’s water supply, as well as the stark facts surrounding lack of sanitation in the developing world. It further showcases the innovations of the contenders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The infographic originally appeared here.
Created by OnlineNursingPrograms.com.
The African Ministers' Council on Water, an initiative of the African Union, has announced a three-year, $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build its capacity for sanitation policy development, monitoring and evaluation coverage, and WASH-related advocacy across the continent.
Awarded through the foundation's global development program, the grant will be used to provide training and technical assistance in four countries working to develop and adopt effective sanitation and hygiene policies and plans; organize the fourth AfricaSan conference as a mechanism for tracking progress, refining targets, and enabling peer support and advocacy for implementation of the 2008 eThekwini Declaration and AfricaSan Action Plan; and help countries fulfill their obligations to report to the AU.
"We face tremendous challenges of diminishing access to clean water and safe sanitation," said AMCOW executive secretary Bai Mass Taal. "AMCOW is committed to working with partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce this scourge and improve access to safe sanitation, thereby achieving our overall goal of decreasing poverty and disease in the continent."
Source: “African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) Gets US$2 Million Grant to Improve Sanitation Coverage in Africa.” African Ministers' Council on Water Press Release 12/18/12.
The University of Toronto has announced a $2.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of ongoing efforts to design a waterless hygienic toilet that is safe and affordable for people in the developing world.
Engineering professor Yu-Ling Cheng, director of the Centre for Global Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, and her team, which includes researchers from Western University and the University of Queensland, placed third in the Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet Challenge last August. Working with partners in Bangladesh, Cheng's team hopes to build an operational prototype by December 2013 that uses readily available materials and equipment that can be maintained locally.
The team's solution uses a sand filter and UV disinfection to process liquid waste and a smolder chamber — similar to a charcoal barbeque — to incinerate solid waste that has been flattened and dried in a roller/belt assembly. The team will work to further simplify the process, reduce mechanical complexity of the device, and minimize odor.
"I am very proud of our entire team and the work we have done up to now," said Cheng. "We have proven that our concept works technically; now we are going to get busy to make sure it will work for the users — some of the 2.6 billion people in the world who do not have access to basic sanitation."
Source: “U of T Engineers Awarded $2.2 Million Grant for Toilet Research.” University of Toronto Press Release 11/28/12.
For additional WASH-related philanthropy news, see the news feed on WASHfunders.org.
Editor’s Note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued a press release announcing the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Over the course of a year, eight finalists were chosen and Bill Gates announced the winning team yesterday at the two-day Toilet Fair at the Foundation’s headquarters in Seattle. Big congratulations to the winning team and to everyone who participated in this creative challenge.
Yesterday Bill Gates announced the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in Seattle — an effort to develop “next-generation” toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it. The awards recognize researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.
California Institute of Technology in the United States received the $100,000 first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity. Loughborough University in the United Kingdom won the $60,000 second place prize for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water. University of Toronto in Canada won the third place prize of $40,000 for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and clean water. Special recognition and $40,000 went to Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) and EOOS for their outstanding design of a toilet user interface.
One year ago, the foundation issued a challenge to universities to design toilets that can capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price.
The first, second, and third place winning prototypes were recognized for most closely matching the criteria presented in the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.
Teams have been showcasing their prototypes and projects at a two-day event held at the foundation’s headquarters in Seattle on August 14 and 15. The Reinvent the Toilet Fair is bringing together participants from 29 countries, including researchers, designers, investors, advocates, and representatives of the communities who will ultimately adopt these new inventions.
“Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better,” said foundation Co-chair Bill Gates. “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.”
Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death. Food and water tainted with fecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year. Most of these deaths could be prevented with the introduction of proper sanitation, along with safe drinking water and improved hygiene.
Improving access to sanitation can also bring substantial economic benefits. According to the World Health Organization, improved sanitation delivers up to $9 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested because it increases productivity, reduces healthcare costs, and prevents illness, disability, and early death.
Other projects featured at the fair include better ways to empty latrines, user-centered designs for public toilet facilities, and insect-based latrines that decompose feces faster.
“Imagine what’s possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead,” said Gates. “Many of these innovations will not only revolutionize sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations.”
Gates added: “All the participants are united by a common desire to create a better world — a world where no child dies needlessly from a lack of safe sanitation and where all people can live healthy, dignified lives.”
The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene initiative is part of the foundation’s Global Development Program, which addresses issues such as agricultural development and financial services — problems that affect the world’s poorest people but do not receive adequate attention. The initiative has committed more than $370 million to this area, with a focus on developing sustainable sanitation services that work for everyone, including the poor.
The foundation also announced a second round of Reinvent the Toilet Challenge grants totaling nearly $3.4 million. The grants were awarded to: Cranfield University (United Kingdom); Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited (India); Research Triangle Institute (United States); and the University of Colorado Boulder (United States).
Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Diane Scott, senior communications officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and originally appeared on their blog, Impatient Optimists. Last year, the Gates Foundation issued a challenge to create a toilet without piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity for less than 5 cents per user a day. At this year’s Reinvent the Toilet Fair on August 14-15, eight finalists will display working prototypes and full scale models, and Bill Gates will announce the winners.
I’d like to think I’m beyond giggling when I see “Synthetic Feces Update” on a meeting agenda. But let’s face it, I’m not. At the foundation’s main campus in Seattle, Washington, we’re talking about “fake poop” quite a bit these days as we get ready to host the Reinvent the Toilet Fair on August 14 and 15. We’ll be featuring toilet prototypes created over the last year by our grantees, some of which will be vying for the coveted “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge Award.”
The reinvented toilet is the brainchild of our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program that aims to bring sanitation (i.e. toilets) to those who don’t have it and must resort to extremely unsanitary means (open defecation — as in doing it out in the open) to relieve themselves. And, to give these newfangled toilet prototypes a test drive while at the fair, we need synthetic feces. About 50 gallons of it.
Why do we even need to reinvent the toilet? First, there hasn’t been much serious innovation in the flush toilet for nearly 200 years. In public health terms, the flush toilet has improved health immensely; it has done a phenomenal job saving lives by helping safely dispose of urine, feces and nasty pathogens. But, it uses a lot of water, and isn’t a realistic solution for people in the developing world, where pipes aren’t already under neighborhoods to carry away the water and sewage, and there isn’t the money and electricity needed to treat sewage properly. Too many people still do not have access to a toilet. How many people? We’re talking about 2.5 billion people.
Here’s the theory behind the “reinvent the toilet” initiative: Innovation in science and technology has done amazing things to help people lead better lives from the introduction of vaccines to prevent against deadly diseases, to the increasingly widespread use of mobile phones in remote areas of the world to share information, transfer money and even pay bills.
Why can’t that same creative thinking be used to solve the problem of dealing with human waste? We believe it can.
Imagine a toilet that isn’t connected to the sewer or electricity — one that takes waste and converts it to energy, is affordable for people in the developing world and is so fabulous that everyone will want to use it. These are the ideas the Reinvent the Toilet Fair is looking to highlight.
But I digress from the topic of synthetic feces (and yes, I did just write that without snickering). Researchers from around the globe are bringing their reinvented toilet prototypes to the fair, and we need synthetic feces for the demonstrations. (And no, we can’t use real feces). Figuring out how much to order is just one part. The other piece of the puzzle is answering questions from exhibitors who need to know all about the “fake poop”: What’s the density? What’s the recipe? What stool size will you be giving us? Does it contain the right amount of energy? (I’m not really sure what that means, but it’s somehow important.) And, finally, will it have an odor?
We know that these “commode creators” are hard at work right now. We’ll be writing blog posts at Impatient Optimists and at partner publications around the web over the next few weeks about the reinvented toilet to get the perspectives on this fascinating issue from environmentalists, social good-doers, technologists and others, so stay tuned.
And, for those inquiring minds, what are synthetic feces made of? The recipe for the fair is simply soybean paste and rice — there’s a more complex recipe for hard-core research and development work. Finally, no, the synthetic feces won’t be scented — even my great recommendation for rose-scented fake poop didn’t fly!