Global Challenge of extending and sustaining sanitation services

A speech by Philip D. O’Brien, Regional Director for the UNICEF Regional Office for Geneva in 2008 explains the need for toilets in the developing world

Why “Sanitation Matters” for children is obvious: some 2.6 billion people in the World live without access to proper toilet facilities among them some 980 million young people under 18’s. 280 million children under five live in homes without access to basic sanitation. Half of the (120 million) children born in the developing world each year will be born into homes without basic sanitation. They will be born but they don’t all live. As His Royal Highness said, more than 5000 children under 5-years-old die each day from inadequate water sanitation-diarrhea related causes.

And this has a devastating impact on their lives:

While the correlation between Under-five mortality and sanitation coverage is abundantly clear — the damage does not stop there. Diarrhea launches a cause and effect chain with tragic results, diarrhea is closely linked to under-nutrition, and under-nutrition is associated with more than half of all under-five deaths. Undernourished children, in turn, have compromised immune systems and are at a higher risk for developing pneumonia – a disease that kills more children than any other disease. This chain reaction illustrates that sanitation and hygiene improvements are the bedrock for children’s health. Without them, the children are vulnerable to a host of fatal and debilitating diseases.

UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (2012 report)

The case for even greater efforts is undeniable. even if the rate of progress cited in the JMP report (UNicef/Who, 2012) were to continue until the end of the MDG period, universal water and sanitation coverage would still be far off—in 2015, 605 million people would remain without access to an improved drinking-water source, and 2.4 billion people would be without access to improved sanitation facilities. Given this scenario, billions will remain at risk of WASh-related diseases such as diarrhoea, which in 2011 killed 2 million people and caused 4 billion episodes of illness

The Gates Foundation is trying to improve water saniation and hygeine by reinventing the toilet.

We are working to help develop and deploy innovative and affordable technologies that can radically improve sanitation in the developing world, particularly in densely populated urban areas. A key part of this effort is our Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, which is funding research to develop waterless, hygienic toilets that do not require a sewer connection or electricity and cost less than five cents per user per day. Most of these projects use chemical engineering processes for energy and resource recovery from human waste.

In August 2012, three prototypes from the first round of grants were selected as winners of the challenge. California Institute of Technology in the United States received first place for a solar-powered toilet that generates electricity. Loughborough University in the United Kingdom won second place for a toilet that extracts biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water from human waste. University of Toronto in Canada won third place for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and clean water. We are continuing to fund additional grants through the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

At the same time, we are developing market-driven ways to stop the dumping of fecal sludge into the environment. The Omni-Ingestor program is developing technologies to make servicing and maintenance of existing sanitation infrastructure—including latrine pits, cesspools, and septic tanks—easier and more affordable for private companies, public utilities, and municipalities. The Omni-Processor program is developing cost-effective approaches for processing fecal sludge and the combined processing of fecal sludge and urban organic waste. The goal is to develop a processor that supports 1,000 to 5,000 urban residents. Ideally, processed waste will be converted into products that can generate revenue and thereby offset waste collection costs, encourage technology acceptance and use, and increase urban standards of living.

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