The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced grants totaling $42 million as part of a new strategy to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of poor people in the developing world.
While the foundation's global development program has awarded more than $200 million to support water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives over the last five years, the new funding represents an increased focus by the foundation on sanitation, with the goal of spurring innovations in the capture and storage of waste as well as its processing into reusable energy, fertilizer, and fresh water. As part of the strategy, the foundation also will support efforts to end open defecation and increase access to affordable, long-term sanitation solutions that people want to use.
Announced at the 2011 AfricaSan Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, the grants include $17 million to WASH for Life, an initiative jointly funded by the foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development that will support projects over four years to identify, test, and help scale up evidence-based approaches to the delivering of water, sanitation, and hygiene services to the poor; $12 million to the African Development Bank and the African Water Facility to pilot sanitation projects; and $10 million to a project co-funded by the German and Kenyan governments that seeks to scale up sustainable sanitation services for up to 800,000 people and water services for up to 200,000 residents in low-income urban areas in Kenya. In addition, the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education was awarded $8 million to transform its postgraduate water and sanitation education system, while eight universities across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America were awarded a total of $3 million to develop a stand-alone toilet that does not require piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity and costs less than five cents a day to operate.
"No innovation in the past two hundred years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation's global development program. "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."