In 2013, studies showed that more people on earth had cell phones than access to toilets. Today, 4.5 billion people still do not have access to bathroom facilities.
Without proper toilets, approximately 946 million people are forced to relieve themselves outside. By doing this, people pollute water sources, jeopardize public health, and impact the lives of others. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 700,000 child deaths are linked to diarrhea, which is a result of unclean or unavailable toilet facilities.
Dr. Maria Neira, WHO’s public health department director says, “Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases.”
Countries all around the world have issues with toilet accessibility. India, however, struggles the most, with 640 million of the population using the restroom outdoors.
Lacking proper toilets is a global crisis that many people do not speak about. “There is a kind of a feeling among politicians that if we ignore the problem it will go away,” says Nitya Jacobs, policy leader for the Indian branch of the international charity WaterAid.
However, this problem cannot be solved with silence.
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and founder of the Gates Foundation, launched the “Reinvent the Toilet” campaign in 2012, which aimed to improve sanitation conditions in developing countries. The event hosted researchers, designers, investors, and advocates, all of whom participated in discussions on how to invent a sustainable toilet that reduces the spread of diseases.
At the event, researchers and universities showcased toilets that would manage human waste and improve the lives of others. The Gates Foundation awarded the most promising designs with money to further their research.
California Institute of Technology in the U.S. received $100,000 to continue developing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity. Loughborough University in the United Kingdom received $60,000 to further develop a toilet that produces minerals, clean water, and biological chemicals. The University of Toronto in Canada received $40,000 to further improve a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and replenishes clean water.
Bill Gates says, “Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better. If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.”
So how can others help those who don’t have access to toilets?
Gates says, “Imagine what’s possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead. 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.”
Simply put, innovative thinking has the potential to change and improve the lives of others.
As universities and researchers continue to develop sustainable toilets, building latrines can decrease the spread of disease. In 2015, a thriving and technological time, every person should have access to a clean and working toilet.
– Kelsey Parrotte