The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new program to address one of the least appealing but most urgent needs in development: toilets. More than 40 percent of the world’s population has no access to toilets, leading those people to use unsanitary and unhealthy alternatives—open pits, by rivers—increasing the risk for diseases and robbing people of a dignity that the most wealthy parts of the world take for granted.
According to the president of the foundation’s Global Development Program, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, “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…. 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.”
Increasing access to basic sanitation is part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, the goal of halving the number of people without toilet access appears to be out of reach. Closing this gap will require working closely with communities to design solutions that will meet their particular challenges.
To help kick-start the program, the foundation announced $42 million in new sanitation grants. For more information on the types of projects being developed, see the Gates Foundation’s announcement.
For more information on InterAction’s work on water, sanitation and hygiene, visit our WASH page.