Bill Gates puts up $400m for safer sanitation

Bill Gates hails India's expertise in public health but highlights problems in sanitation

Gates went on to explain that the aforementioned pathogens cause diseases that kill almost 500,000 children under the age of 5 every year.

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the adoption of these off-grid toilet technologies and systems could reduce the global toll of unsafe sanitation, including the deaths of 500,000 children under five-years-old each year and over $200 billion that's lost due to rising health care costs.

Holding a beaker of human excreta that, Gates said, contained as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder explained to a 400-strong crowd that new approaches for sterilizing human waste may help end nearly 500,000 infant deaths and save $233 billion annually in costs linked to diarrhea, cholera and other diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

Gates, and the expo itself, remained focused on the need - driven by present and future water shortages and a lack of infrastructure in many parts of the world - for toilets that process human waste without the need for water-fed sewers. He said providing sanitation is a step toward reducing poverty. "It's a real win-win", Gates said.

He hopes to develop technology that takes in human waste, kill unsafe pathogens and converts the resulting materials into products with potential commercial value like clean water, electricity and fertiliser.

"I have to say, a decade ago I never imagined that I'd know so much about poop". He added, "And I definitely never thought that Melinda would have to tell me to stop talking about toilets and faecal sludge at the dinner table". "But I'm quite enthusiastic about what has been accomplished in just seven years".

United States billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates unveiled in Beijing a futuristic toilet that does not need water or sewers and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertiliser. Since then, tens of thousands of facilities have been built or upgraded.

However, there are still some 57 million households without their own toilets and, of those, 17 million - mainly in the countryside - face serious hygiene issues.

The stunt was an effort to draw attention to a problem affecting developing countries around the world: not enough toilets. He estimated that by 2030, it would be worth about US$6 billion a year worldwide.

The 20 cutting-edge toilets on display in Beijing are meant to provide efficient and cost-effective alternatives to sewer systems.

In China, the foundation is working with three local partners to improve toilet facilities.

"All of them remove the pathogens from the waste and, most importantly, they don't have to be connected to the sewer system", Gates added.

"Our goal is to be at 5 cents a day of cost", Gates said in a telephone interview before the exhibition.

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