In Honor of World Toilet Day, "Let's Talk Sh*t"

11/19/2011 08:20 am ET | Updated Jan 19, 2012

The global community faces so many seemingly intractable problems. Terrorism. The European financial crisis. Global warming. The list goes on. While we
deploy the best and brightest, as well as trillions of dollars on these crises, we often disagree on the solutions -- and even on the causes. But for one
of the greatest challenges of our time, the crisis of global sanitation, we do have a solution. It's quite simple and rather familiar -- toilets.

November 19 is World Toilet Day. On this day, and our partners are challenging the global community to focus on one of the world's biggest
killers, which has clear and known solutions. We ask you to donate your voice and bring awareness
to this critical issue and its readily available remedies.

We can all agree on the gravity of this challenge and the efficacy of solutions -- solutions that were developed more than 100 years ago. Yet today, more
people have access to a cell phone than a toilet. Proper toilets and safe water are inextricably linked. Inadequate sanitation and the lack of safe
water are  the principal causes of diarrheal disease, which is the second leading cause of death among children under five. Globally, diarrheal disease
kills more people than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. To date, no innovation has done more to improve health than the toilet.

Yet, while the global sanitation crisis is a massive killer, it is rarely discussed in the context of the world's greatest challenges. Its deep effect
on women's safety and dignity is especially significant and far-reaching. Unfortunately, sanitation as a "cause" has not yet caught our global fancy;
shit is not sexy and pictures of toilets don't spark action. Yet this can be overcome -- breast cancer was once a taboo subject, but now the United States
turns pink each October.

The irony here is that the sanitation crisis doesn't require further research to track down an elusive cure. It only requires commitment and a little
creativity. In many parts of the world, the tried and true system of piped sewage is an obvious fix. In other cases, entrepreneurs are finding new ways
to meet the needs of the poor, and even creating new businesses around sanitation. Yes, it is possible to create new markets and work to eliminate
disease at the same time. Teams like those at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are reinventing the very standard of the toilet as we know it in
many parts of the world. That said, no matter what model we use, a commitment to elevate adequate sanitation as a fundamental building block of public
health and economic development must be put in place. It must must be escalated as one of the most critical investments that can be made to create a
healthier and safer world.  

This year, and partners Acumen Fund,, the Gates Foundation, ONE Campaign, Water for People, and the World Toilet Organization in
Southeast Asia have partnered to give the toilet the attention it deserves. Ensuring adequate sanitation is one of the most cost-effective and
important investments that the world can make to reduce disease, increase family income, keep girls in school, preserve the environment, and enhance
human dignity. On behalf of the 2.6 billion people in need of a simple toilet, we urge you to learn more and drive awareness of this incredibly basic
and profound cause.  Donate your voice via Twitter or Facebook at