Press Room




World Water Forum 6, Marseille, France

March 12, 2012
Prepared remarks by Frank Rijsberman

Why Sanitation:

The recently released Joint Monitoring Program Progress on Water & Sanitation report, compiled by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, triumphantly announced that the Millennium Development Goal for water – reduce by half the number of people without access to clean water – had been met five years ahead of the target date of 20151. Meeting the MDG for water is an important milestone that should be celebrated. However, the report also tells the far less positive story of sanitation, which continues to be severely off track, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The sanitation technology developed by Alexander Cummings more than 200 years ago that we still use today doesn’t meet the sanitation challenge that the world is now facing. Many countries with unserved populations strive to provide everyone with flush toilets connected to sewers and wastewater treatment plants. But we don’t think sewers and wastewater treatment plants are a solution that will work for the 2.5 billion people who currently don’t have access to improved sanitation.

The sanitation crisis, combined with the need for new technologies, approaches, and strategies to deliver on a large scale have fueled the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s call to action to “reinvent the toilet”. To us, reinventing the toilet is not just about technology – it’s about a new way of thinking that will provide the best solutions to the poorest people in urban and rural areas. We turned the usual funding and attention scenario from 90% water, 10% sanitation on its head by committing 90% of our funding to sanitation, and 10% to water and hygiene programs. Our strategy includes three main components:

  • Science & Technology: We are funding research and development for sanitation to find new and better ways to manage human waste without central sewers. This ranges from upstream scientific research to applied technologies across the sanitation value chain. It also includes the business models that can put these new technologies to work for the poor.
  • Delivery Models at Scale: We are supporting the testing and improvement of sanitation delivery models that stimulate community demand for improved sanitation, increase the availability of desirable products, build local capacity, and strengthen the enabling environment.
  • Policy & Advocacy: We are investing in advocacy to disseminate successful approaches to sanitation and encourage changes in policy and funding priorities necessary to accelerate access to sustainable sanitation.
We do continue to invest in a limited number of water and hygiene programs. And a monitoring, learning and evaluation portfolio helps to build an evidence base for investments in sustainable sanitation that can inform best practices in delivering the highest quality service to the poorest in both rural and urban areas.

What We All Need to Do:

The current lack of progress on the sanitation crisis justifies increased action in several areas. We see the components below as essential to achieving the long term vision of providing sustainable sanitation services that work for everyone.

  • Explore and Implement Sanitation without Sewers: Our long term goal is a household-scale reinvented toilet that safely removes pathogens and recovers resources. In order for this to become a reality for billions of people, we need government policies that move away from a reliance on sewers and towards new and innovative solutions. Some of these technologies don’t yet exist but governments can begin now to explore options beyond sewers and to test innovative ways of capturing, extracting, transporting, and disposing of waste.
  • End Open Defecation: In both rural and urban areas, demand-led programs like community-led total sanitation are moving the needle on increasing sustainable access to sanitation. A number of governments in Africa and Asia have transformed this approach into national campaigns aimed at ending open defecation. Lending a government voice and resources to this can help to deliver this and reach scale more quickly.
  • Provide Sustainable Services at Scale: As a sector, we need to change our thinking from a focus on infrastructure to services, because that is what people need. In order to be able to deliver this effectively, we need to understand the costs of water and sanitation services. The use of the life cycle cost approach by donors, implementers, and governments, can improve the quality, targeting and cost-effectiveness of service delivery.
  • Promote Sanitation as a Business: Delivering sustainable sanitation services also requires a regulatory environment that encourages entrepreneurs and businesses to build profitable businesses. Partnerships between government and the private sector can strengthen service delivery, build economies of scale, and drive down costs.
  • Cooperate and Partner: The crisis can’t be tackled without opportunities to build a collective evidence base, share lessons learned, and make specific commitments that will have impact. This means endorsing political commitments like the eThekwini Declaration, and participating in venues for collective engagement and problem-solving like Sanitation & Water for All.

What We Are Doing:

Last year, we committed more than $120 million in grants, 90% of which is focused on sanitation. In many cases we’re working with other donors and national governments in order to have the greatest impact.

  • Sanitation Science & Technology: To date, we have committed $79 m for sanitation science and technology, including grants to 8 universities to develop prototypes of a reinvented toilet that will not require a sewer connection, will cost 5 cents per day to use, and will effectively eliminate the waste stream.
    • In partnership with USAID, we are investing in water and sanitation innovations through the Development Innovation Ventures WASH for Life fund.
    • A project co-funded by the Kenyan and German governments and the Gates Foundation will deliver sustainable sanitation services to 800,000 people in urban communities.
  • Delivery Models at Scale: To date, $47m has been committed to demand-led sanitation programs, with the aim of contributing to ending open defecation for 30 million people by 2015.
    • In addition to our Total Sanitation & Sanitation Marketing Grant with the Water and Sanitation Program, we are also investing $30 million in grants with BRAC, iDE, Plan International and Project Concern in community-led programs (CLTS++) designed to educate communities on the value of sanitation, stimulate demand for sanitation services, and work with local governments and the private sector to increase the number of people that live in open defecation free communities.
  • Policy & Advocacy: We have invested $18m to date in policy and advocacy grants that support sanitation policy development and advocacy campaigns.
    • We are supporting sports-based advocacy campaigns in partnership with the German government that will reach millions of people with messages about sanitation and hygiene in Africa and South Asia.

    • The life-cycle cost approach, developed by IRC, switches the focus of investments from installing taps and toilets to delivering long-term services. This innovation in approach that focuses on sustainable service delivery will be ripe for adoption this year for donors, governments, and implementing partners.
    More detail on our strategy and awarded grants is available here. We believe that with governments, advocates, researchers, investors, businesses, and donors we can accelerate the pace of change in sanitation and make an impact on the challenge that keeps 2.5 billion people without a toilet. Your commitment to these principles will be critical to achieving that goal.

    1. Based on 2010 data

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