Scientific American Examines Gates Foundation Toilet-Design Initiative

“Advocates for universal access to and use of basic personal sanitation hope their efforts will get a big boost in August, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation present several hygienic innovations developed through its Reinventing the Toilet Challenge,” Scientific American reports in a feature article. “The foundation’s involvement could do for sanitation what it has accomplished in the battle to eradicate malaria — raise the visibility of a fundamental health care crisis and encourage new efforts to end it,” the magazine writes.

The magazine describes some of the proposed prototypes and notes, “Frank Rijsberman, director of the Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Initiative, says he is hoping for something that goes beyond the minimum criteria to become the ‘iPad of sanitation,'” adding, “He says, ‘There must be an aspirational element’ to toilets or even latrines if they are going to become the norm. People have to want to be seen owning one.” The magazine concludes, “The hope is that efforts such as sanitation marketing and the Gates Foundation’s challenge will have an impact on sanitation problems worldwide, but the reality of what they face is daunting” (Nash, 2/21).