Visualizing death and disease from lack of sanitation | 

Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

toilet mrlego54
Flickr, mrlego54

Earlier this week we marked World Toilet Day, created to raise awareness of the fact that billions of people around the world lack access to this basic necessity. The day is not so much about toilets as it is one of many attempts aimed at making sanitation a development priority worldwide.

Recent articles in news outlets such as CNN, Al Jazeera, and The Hindu discuss the importance of sanitation for everything from preventing diarrhea to protecting women from sexual assault and promoting girls’ education. In Humanosphere’s World Toilet Day post, we noted that the World Bank estimates that poor sanitation costs the globe an estimated $2.6 billion every year in lost productivity (a word economists use to tally up, among other things, the cost of death and disability).

Today’s post explores the extent to which poor sanitation contributes to the death toll in developing countries.

We’ll also explore developing countries’ progress in reducing deaths from poor sanitation, also known as “unimproved sanitation.” In 2010, an estimated 243,586 deaths in developing countries were attributable to poor sanitation. Lack of an adequate toilet contributes to deadly conditions such as diarrheal diseases and typhoid. Continue reading

For World Toilet Day Gates Foundation motto: Every shit has value | 

Ugandans transport a Swiss-made 'diversion' toilet - one of the Gates Foundation's winners in its re-inventing the toilet competition
Ugandans transport a Swiss-made ‘diversion’ toilet – one of the Gates Foundation’s winners in its re-inventing the toilet competition

It’s World Toilet Day so the world is awash with potty humor, bizarre videos and otherwise earnest organizations giddily celebrating the use of obscenity or fart jokes in support of saving lives.

This is the first official World Toilet Day, at least insofar as the United Nations is concerned. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said today, the goal is to draw attention to the fact that 2.5 billion people are endangered by lack of safe sanitation – an inequity that contributes to many water-borne illnesses and deaths around the world. Diarrhea, often caused by poor sanitation, kills some 800,000 annually, for example.

And it’s an economic burden as well: The World Bank estimates poor sanitation costs countries some $260 billion a year in lost productivity.

So, yes, shit is a serious global problem. Continue reading

Gates-backed tech toilet poops out in India | 

Bill Gates reviews one contestant in the Toilet Re-Invention contest.
Bill Gates reviews one contestant in the Toilet Re-Invention contest.
Gates Foundation

One of the most popular missions lately for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been to re-invent the toilet, an initiative it launched nearly two years ago to great media fanfare as part of its broader program aimed at improving sanitation and water.

Billions of people lack access to proper sanitation, making this a huge global public health threat, and need. Some news stories:

Time Gates Foundation funding toilets of the future 

NPR Bill Gates crowns toilet innovators

Reuters Gates Foundation puts money on solar-powered toilet

Today, according to India media, one of the winning toilet innovators in the philanthropy’s contest, Eram Scientific, has failed to attact poopers nearly a year after introduction. As The Hindu reports, an official says part of the problem is:

“People don’t know how to use these technologically advanced toilets. They are afraid to use it; they fear being locked up…”

Bill Gates is on his way to India so maybe he’ll swing by to check on this project and see if he can flush out the problem. To be fair, this is why this project is part of the foundation’s Grand Challenges program, which is designed to test out high-risk ideas and learn from failure.

Gates Foundation pushes re-invention of the toilet | 

Flickr, MrUlimi

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced that it was shifting its emphasis in water and sanitation efforts to push for a radical re-invention of the toilet.

The Gates Foundation today formally announced its new strategy at a sanitation conference in Kigali, Rwanda (though the gist of the toilet re-invention project was leaked a week ago by Germany’s Die Welt).

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, head of development for the Gates Foundation, made the announcement of $42 million in new grants devoted to the cause of water and sanitation in a speech at a meeting organized by the African Ministers’ Council on Water.

Here’s the Gates Foundation’s amusing video clip making the case for us to get our s#!t together and invent a new toilet:

Mathews Burwell said their focus is on the toilet because it is a 200-year-old technology that helped spark a revolution in public health and hygiene, but now needs updating: Continue reading

Making Sanitation Sexy | 

Flickr, jurvetson

Lack of proper sanitation is why many Haitians are under assault from cholera right now, with more than 2,300 dead so far and 100,000 sickened.

Millions of people, mostly children, die from diarrhea and other water-borne illnesses spread by lack of toilets, sewer systems and clean water, says the World Health Organization. Something like one out of every three or four people on the planet has no access to a toilet.

Among those organizations trying to draw attention to this massive but neglected problem, the Acumen Fund recently announced winners of its “Search for the Obvious” contest asking people to submit videos, illustrations and even the best Tweet aimed at “Making Sanitation Sexy.”

You can see the list of Sexy Sanitation winners and entries here. Some are funny, provocative. I especially liked this video:

Here’s an earlier post on World Toilet Day. This is a big problem worldwide. The solution is simple in concept — developing basic sewage treatment systems — but not so simple to achieve in poor countries. These kind of campaigns can help raise awareness. But what’s needed will be government investment in building and maintaining basic infrastructure.

Think of Haiti’s dead and sick on World Toilet Day | 

Flickr, jurvetson

It’s World Toilet Day and the blogosphere is all abuzz with humorous talk of toilets, interesting factoids (e.g., more people have cell phones than they do access to toilets) and those calling an end to this “crappy problem.”

Every day is World “Something” Day and such Hallmark Card attempts to promote a cause usually pass by ignored. But toilets are, for some reason, entertaining.

Everybody poops,” begins ONE’s blog, before launching into a more serious discussion of the problem. Continue reading