In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, co-chair Bill Gates discusses the foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Fair, held this week in Seattle, which “brought together about 200 grantees, partners, and others who are passionate about creating safe, effective, and inexpensive sanitation services for people without access to flush toilets.” “The flush toilets we use in the wealthy world are irrelevant, impractical and impossible for 40 percent of the global population,” Gates writes, noting, “Worldwide, there are 2.5 billion people without access to safe sanitation — including one billion people who still defecate out in the open and more than one billion others who must use pit latrines” (8/14). A related post in the blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the Gates Foundation campus was transformed for the toilet fair (8/14).
Water and Sanitation
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).
In a policy paper published in Science on Thursday, researchers praised China’s January 2011 plan to address water shortages and conservation in the nation, but “the researchers said this commitment won’t be enough unless disparate agencies learn to communicate and coordinate with each other,” Reuters reports. “They described a web of government entities with seemingly contradictory missions, and actions that appear to go against one policy as they promote another,” the news service writes, adding, for example, “The government encourages urbanization, the report said, but protection of water supplies gets less attention compared to energy issues, even though water is absolutely essential to human life.” Reuters continues, “To solve these problems, the authors recommended focusing on increasing water efficiency along with work to understand the complex relationships among agencies and people with competing claims on water” (Zabarenko, 8/9).
NGOs Call For Full Implementation Of Human Right To Water, Sanitation In Letter To U.N. Member States
At the end of last month, the international community commemorated the second anniversary of a July 2010 U.N. General Assembly resolution declaring water and sanitation a basic human right, but “there was hardly any political rejoicing either inside or outside the U.N.,” Inter Press Service/Guardian reports. “In March, [UNICEF] and the [WHO] released a joint report claiming that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water (spelled out under Goal 7 on environmental sustainability) had been reached well in advance of the 2015 deadline,” the news service writes. Though the MDG goal was reached, “[a] cautious UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake warned that victory could not yet be declared since at least 11 percent of the world’s population — roughly 783 million people — are still without access to safe drinking water, and billions are without sanitation facilities,” the news service notes.
In this post in Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) “Global Health Impact” blog, Abdul Qawi Qadiri, WASH coordinator for Baghlan Province in Afghanistan, writes about how a community-led program in the village of Baghalak has helped to reduce the incidence of infectious illnesses, particularly diarrheal diseases. The USAID-funded program, Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS), is a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) training aimed at increasing the use of latrines and other hygienic practices, Qadiri notes (8/7).
Communal Violence In India Forces Up To 400,000 Into Overcrowded Camps Without Sufficient Food, Water, Medicine
“Hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in squalid, overcrowded camps in India’s northeast desperately need food, water and medicines after fleeing some of the worst communal violence in a decade, officials and aid workers said on Monday,” AlertNet reports. Up to 400,000 people have fled to government-run camps in Assam state, the news service notes, adding Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “We are in a state of high alert. … People in the camps are suffering from diarrhea, dysentery, malaria and high fever. We are concerned about the condition of the babies and pregnant women.” According to AlertNet, “Sarma said around 8,000 children under two-years-old are sick, while hundreds of others have tested positive for malaria. There are also around 4,000 pregnant women in the camps who need medical support, he added.” The news service notes that at least 12 people have died, including four children (Bhalla, 8/6).
“The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo who fled fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers,” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (Muhumuza, 8/3). The first case was detected on Friday, and since then at least nine people have died of the disease, MSF said, according to Al Jazeera (8/5).
A report released Thursday by the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang, North Korea, said the country needs food aid following severe flooding that has killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands of people homeless, the Associated Press reports (Kim/Pennington, 8/2). According to BBC News, “A U.N. spokesman in New York confirmed that the North Korean government has asked the U.N. to release emergency supplies such as food and fuel” (8/2).
“The United States announced Thursday it would hike its humanitarian aid to Syria, adding another $12 million to provide food, water, medicine and other necessities for battered and displaced people” affected by violence in the Syrian conflict, the Los Angeles Times blog “World Now” reports. “The increase approved by the Obama administration brings American humanitarian assistance in Syria to more than $76 million, including $27.5 million to the World Food Programme [WFP], roughly $18 million for the United Nations refugee agency and the rest split among other U.N. funds and non-profit groups,” the blog writes (Alpert, 8/2).
“In April, Partners In Health [PIH] responded to Haiti’s cholera epidemic by providing oral vaccinations to 45,000 people living in the country’s Artibonite region — specifically, to two rice-farming communities hit hard by cholera,” Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at PIH, reports in an article on the organization’s webpage. “In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, hundreds of community health workers fanned out across the rural, flood-prone area, delivering two doses to each person by the end of May,” she writes, and discusses the impact of the campaign (8/1).