Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on Tuesday “announced the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge — an effort to develop ‘next-generation’ toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it,” according to a foundation press release (8/14). “To pass the foundation’s threshold for the world’s next toilet, it must operate without running water, electricity or a septic system, not discharge pollutants, preferably capture energy or other resources, and operate at a cost of five cents a day,” according to the Associated Press (Blankinship, 8/15). “The new commodes are being showcased at a ‘Reinvent the Toilet Fair’ Tuesday and Wednesday in Seattle,” CNN writes, adding, “The foundation also announced a second round of grants totaling some $3.4 million to organizations that are working to innovative latrines” (8/15).
Water and Sanitation
Ethiopian Government Working To Improve Access To Clean Toilets, Safe Water For People Living With HIV
PlusNews examines how a lack of access to clean toilets, safe drinking water, and “information on the prevention of common opportunistic infections means many Ethiopians living with HIV continue to contract easily preventable diseases.” The news service writes, “According to the [non-governmental organization (NGO)] Wateraid, people living with HIV are often unable to access community water sources or latrines because of stigma and discrimination.” Following calls from experts for the nation to address water and sanitation issues related to HIV care and treatment programs, the Ethiopian government “has laid out ambitious plans for water, sanitation and hygiene through its Universal Access Plan II, which seeks to reach 98.5 percent of its population with access to safe water and 100 percent with access to sanitation by 2015” and “is also drafting a document called ‘Guidelines to Integrate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene into HIV Programmes,’ which lays the groundwork for incorporating safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices into all HIV care services being delivered at all levels,” PlusNews reports (8/27).
At the opening ceremony of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “launched a framework that will help combat food insecurity by providing methods to better manage water resources in agriculture and reduce waste,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The initiative, entitled ‘Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security’ [.pdf], seeks to encourage practices that will improve water management, such as modernizing irrigation schemes, recycling and re-using wastewater, implementing mechanisms to reduce water pollution, and storing rainwater at farms to reduce drought-related risks, among others,” the news service notes.
The Washington Post examines global efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease, writing, “The parasitic infection which has sickened millions, mostly in Asia and Africa, is on the verge of being done in not by sophisticated medicine but by aggressive public health efforts in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world.” According to the newspaper, “hundreds of thousands of volunteers” have contributed to fighting the waterborne parasite, by handing out filtered drinking straws or treating water sources with larvicide, among other efforts. “As a result, the ailment, also known as dracunculiasis, is poised to become the second human disease (the first was smallpox) to be eradicated — and the first to be eliminated without the aid of a vaccine,” the Washington Post continues.
“Having just returned to New York from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, I’m reminded how lucky we are in this city to have reliable water and sanitation services,” David Winder, chief executive of WaterAid USA, writes this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Increased investment in providing access to safe water and improved sanitation dramatically impacts child survival,” but “[i]n low-income areas of cities like Maputo, that is often a complex task,” he notes. “Often in low-income urban neighborhoods, the provision of piped water to homes is simply too expensive for ordinary families to afford,” he continues.
“The world urgently needs to adopt drought-management policies as farmers from Africa to India struggle with lack of rainfall and the United States endures the worst drought it has experienced in decades, top officials with the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports. “The World Meteorological Organization [WMO] says the U.S. drought and its ripple effects on global food markets show the need for policies with more water conservation and less consumption,” the AP writes (Heilprin, 8/21). “Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,’ said [WMO] Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release,” the U.N. News Centre notes. “‘We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,’ he added, according to the news service (8/21). “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports food prices have climbed by six percent because of drought, ethanol production and high fuel costs, and are likely to go higher if drought continues,” VOA News adds (Schlein, 8/21).
“A long-planned project to find out whether vaccination is feasible in the midst of an ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti has been stymied — temporarily, its proponents insist –” after “a Port-au-Prince radio station reported that the impending vaccination effort was actually a ‘medical experiment on the Haitian people’ — a potentially incendiary charge,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports.
“Developing countries have already achieved their 2015 [Millennium Development Goal (MDG)] of drastically reducing the number of people without regular access to improved drinking water, though much of the credit lies with India and China,” UNICEF and the WHO said in a joint report (.pdf) on Tuesday, Reuters reports (Charbonneau, 3/6). “According to the [WHO] and UNICEF joint monitoring program for water supply and sanitation (JMP), between 1990 and 2010 more than two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells” and “at the end of 2010, 89 percent of the population — 6.1 billion people — now used improved drinking water sources, one percent more than the 88 percent target contained in [MDG] number seven, set in 2000,” the Guardian writes (Ford, 3/6).
The achievement of meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for safe drinking water “shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better,” Sanjay Wijesekera, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress towards achieving the target is off-track, 273 million additional people gained access to drinking water since 1990,” he writes, adding, “So, we should raise our hats to the governments, organizations, communities and individuals who put great effort and resources into making this happen.”
The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) recently launched the Global Water Solidarity Platform “at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, where 20,000 participants from the private, public and non-profit sectors [met] to address the water crisis,” according to a UNDP press release. “The Global Water Solidarity Platform, which is supported by the governments of France and Switzerland, connects local authorities and organizations to take action to solve water and sanitation challenges, through which, for example, municipal water authorities in more developed countries can take direct action to support the improvement of water and sanitation services in developing contexts by contributing one percent of their revenue or budgets,” the press release states (3/15).