Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Let's Reinvent the Toilet

July 19, 2011

Greetings from the AfricaSan3 Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. I am thrilled to be one of the first to share the details of the foundation’s new sanitation-focused strategy, which Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President of our Global Development program, announced in her keynote address this morning.

As Sylvia noted in her speech, the sanitation revolution has done more to save lives and improve health than any public health intervention in the past 200 years. But the flush toilet has reached only one-third of the world’s population. Clearly, we need to encourage new ideas and new approaches to accelerate safe and affordable access to sanitation for everyone.

That is why the foundation has today announced $41.5 million in new program investments and a new program strategy.

Some of these funds will be used to spur innovation in sanitation science and technology, which includes the capture and storage of human waste, as well as its processing into reusable energy, fertilizer, and fresh water. To learn more about some exciting “Toilet 2.0” concepts, check out our Grand Challenges Explorations and Reinventing the Toilet Challenge fact sheets.

We recognize, however, that we can also do more with existing solutions. As Rose George emphasized last week, progress is being made on community-led efforts to end open defecation. So we are supporting initiatives to improve and scale up these successful approaches.

Finally, we need to support creative new approaches to policy and advocacy that take an unapologetically direct approach to poop and the huge pile of problems that it creates. We hope that the video we have created for our launch helps to break the silence of the “last taboo.” Enjoy!

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