Toilet "taboo" hurts poor, development says expert

ROME Tue May 1, 2012 12:48am IST

A man uses a canal as a toilet as he squats on a boat in the slum area of Cite de Dieu, just outside Port-au-Prince March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Swoan Parker/Files

A man uses a canal as a toilet as he squats on a boat in the slum area of Cite de Dieu, just outside Port-au-Prince March 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Swoan Parker/Files

Related Topics

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

ROME (Reuters) - Governments are failing to fund projects to improve access to toilets and other sanitation services in poor countries because the subject remains "taboo", a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Monday.

"Who wants to talk about shit?" asked Frank Rijsberman, Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the $34 billion charitable foundation, during an interview with Reuters on Monday.

"It's the last big taboo and as a result more than one million kids die every year. Diarrhoea is the second largest cause of death after respiratory infections in young children," he said at the Global Water Summit 2012 conference in Rome.

Rijsberman said global leaders should take opportunities like the U.N. conference for sustainable development in Rio in June to set new sanitation targets.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by the founder of technology giant Microsoft and his wife, has already given grants to researchers to come up with cheaper and more efficient toilets, he added.

"We need the cellphone of sanitation, an aspirational product," Rijsberman said.

Ideas submitted so far include inventions that turned dried human waste into a kind of cooking fuel, or used microwaves to transform it into electricity.

About 1.1 billion people across the world still defecate in the open because they have no toilets, according to the United Nations.

Governments are still far from meeting an internationally agreed Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation - only 63 percent of the world now has improved access to sanitation, well below the target of getting that to 75 percent by 2015.

By contrast, the world has met the MDG to halve the proportion of people with no safe drinking water well ahead of the 2015 deadline, according to U.N. data released in March.

Rijsberman said new sanitation technology was needed most in South Asia and Africa, though may be rolled out more quickly in Thailand, Malaysia and other countries.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared


Paucity of Rains

Patchy Rain

Met office rules out surplus monsoon in 2014   Full Article 

Boat Tragedy

Boat Tragedy

Boy and girl on Korean ferry tied life jackets together before they drowned.  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine forces kill up to five rebels, Russia starts drill near border.  Full Article 

Big Buyback

Big Buyback

Apple expands buybacks by $30 billion.  Full Article 

Put A Ring On It

Put A Ring On It

Actress Jodie Foster marries girlfriend Alexandra Hedison.  Full Article 

Times Top List

Time 100

Janet Yellen, Miley Cyrus odd bedfellows in Time's list of 100 most influential.  Full Article 

Champions League

Champions League

Benzema strike gives Real Madrid edge over holders Bayern Munich.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage