The Big Necessity

Source: BBC
Bill Gates is, in a manner of speaking, flushing his money down the toilet. His charitable organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is looking for future loos that can improve sanitation around the world. At the Reinvent the Toilet fair, hosted at its Seattle campus this week, designs included a lavatory that used microwave energy to turn poo into electricity. Another turned excrement into charcoal, while a third used urine for flushing. In total 28 designs were shown off at the fair and the winner was a team from the California Institute of Technology. Read more…

While in India, a different movement took place in the 70’s. It started off with the need to provide sanitation facilities to people who do not have access to it but soon became the largest NGO in India. Sulabh International was founded by Dr. Pathak in 1970.”

Biran et al., write in the 2011 issue of ‘Tropical Medicine and International Health’:

Diarrhoeal disease is estimated to cause 1.87 million deaths among children under five globally per year (Boschi-Pinto et al. 2008). Use of safe sanitation is an effective intervention that can reduce the risk of diarrhoeal disease by around 33%, but access to safe sanitation remains a major public health problem.

However, provision of communal sanitation facilities is not a guarantee of access and use. If provision of communal sanitation facilities is to be a key strategy in sanitation provision for the urban poor, this should be informed by a sound understanding of their potential for ending open defecation and particularly the barriers and facilitating factors associated with their use.

Women appear to be relatively poorly served by communal facilities and, cost is a barrier to use by poorer households. Results suggest improving facility convenience and access and modifying fee structures could lead to increased rates of usage.

In the book ‘The Big Necessity’, Rose George writes,

“every day 200,000 tonnes of human faeces  are deposited in India to be trodden on, stepped over, lived among. It is a practice knowns as open defecation and it is done on a scale, in the words of Sulabh international, that compares to the entire European population sitting on their haunches from Elbe in the east to the Pyrenees in the west”.


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