The newest project from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is set to revolutionize the toilet.
Together with the German government, the project aims to provide 800,000 people in Kenya with access to sanitation facilities and clean drinking water for 200,000 people, reports TIME.
According to the magazine, Bill Gates says it's time to leave the era of the classic toilet behind, and he points out that despite all of the recent achievements, 40 percent of the world's population, or some 2.5 billion people, still live without proper means of flushing away excrement.
Toilets aren't the only focus for the Foundation. The Associated Press reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is planning to provide a dozen researchers with an additional $1 million over five years to test life-saving ideas, such as using microwaves to kill malaria parasites. The toilets seem to be another unique focus for the Foundation, with potentially huge results.
TIME reports that the lack of sanitation facilities increases the spread of disease, and UNICEF estimates that globally, 1.1 billion people don't have access to any kind of toilet or means of safely eliminating waste. At least 1.2 million children under the age of five die from diarrhea each year, caused by undrinkable water.
The project is working on two important initiatives. The first is to construct sanitation facilities in rural areas and slums, and the other is a research project that is giving grants to scientists who come up with new ideas for using human excrement. TIME writes:
In view of the world's limited water resources, both the Gates Foundation and German Development Policy support various projects for dry toilets that do not use water to flush and that separate excrement from urine in order to dry it.
World-wide access to adequate sanitation is a long time goal for the Gates Foundation. At the Techonomy conference last year, Gates took the stage to discuss something most people shy away from, reports TechCrunch:
"We're gonna have a breakthrough in the latrines," he continued. He said that while the flushable toilet is the gold standard, it isn't efficient at all. Someone is going to fix that, according to Gates.
According to TechCrunch, Gates read many books on the subject, and later discussed investing in sanitation. "When it comes to things like investing in new toilets, not much money goes into that. You end up with the low IQ guy on the toilets."
The Gates Foundation has a strong history of philanthropic projects. In 2008, the organization began helping thousands of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia grow more productive, profitable and sustainable crops. Since 2006, they have committed more that $1.5 billion in grants to agricultural development efforts. Just last week, Reuters reported that the Foundation received a boost when investor Warren Buffett donated $1.78 billion to several charities, with over $19 million going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.