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Gates Foundation offers $42 million in toilet grants

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants innovators to reinvent the toilet.

After all, flush toilets are out of reach for a huge majority of the developing world. And yet, no other innovation has done more to save lives and improve sanitation in the last 200 years, said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation's Global Development Program, at the AfricaSan conference in Rwanda this week.

But the sanitation revolution "did not go far enough," Burwell said. "It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas."

The Gates Foundation is providing $42 million in new grants to fund toilet innovations, including research into new methods of capturing, storing and processing waste into fertilizer, energy and drinkable water.

The lack of sanitation infrastructure in many parts of the world means that the foundation will work to develop waterless and hygienic toilets that don't rely on sewer lines.

About 2.6 billion people lack access to a proper toilet or latrine, and about 1.5 million children die each year from preventable diarrheal disease, the foundation said.

As part of its 2015 Millennium Goals, the United Nations seeks to cut in half the number of people who don't have access to basic sanitation.

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Photo: Workers push a cart of effluent from slum pit latrines to the local water supply as children play on the shore in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday. Photo credit: Khalil Senosi / Associated Press

 
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