Sub-Saharan Africa, which is considered to be one of the bastions of origin of life, continues to fall behind in terms of economic and health development. Massive population growth, extreme poverty, severe lack of employment, civil conflicts, and even corruption in the government have been blamed for the slow improvement in the areas of sanitation and water supply over the last 20 years.
Although the figures continue to climb–there’s more than 20% boost in water supply and around 3% for sanitation–it still doesn’t change the fact that millions still don’t have access to these basic necessities, especially latrines or toilets .
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world, aims to change all that by introducing a very innovative method of sanitation that will not only resolve the poor health facility issues but will also deal with the challenge of obtaining more water supply.
How Will It Work?
First the foundation is extending $400,000 grant to Pollution Research Group, an organization currently being headed by Professor Chris Buckley and is presently based in University of KwaZulu-Natal. The main goal is to harness the wastes that can be derived from several ablution blocks built in some of the impoverished communities in Durban.
One of the first testing grounds for this initiative will be eThekwini, which is home to close to a million people and with an increased population growth of over 6% each year. Most of its adults are also out of work, which can partly explain the lack of proper sanitation facilities in the area.
The project is multifold, though the general principle is consistent: make the most out of the wastes and convert them into something useful for the community. With the help of the technologies including a chlorination process that shall also be designed by the PRG, they will be able to transform solid wastes like diapers into a vital component of fertilizers and flush water and urine into a potential source of water. In the long run, the system will be more sustainable as the converted solid wastes can also be utilized to heat specific components that form part of the entire technology.
The Initiative’s Impact on a Larger Scale
This practical way of addressing the problems of health and sanitation in the community can already have a huge impact in Africa and, to a large extent, the rest of the world. One, the foundation and PRG can work closely with other African-based organizations such as AGRA (Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa), which concentrates on providing support for small-scale farmers who are always plagued with issues on lack of water supply and poor quality of soil. The converted waste products can then be offered to these farmers to augment their own supply.
Second, if this initiative becomes successful, it can be replicated by other African communities and may be modified to work in other impoverished countries where the same access is lacking. Moreover, this may facilitate the reduction of human waste pollution, which is one of the major contributors of water supply contaminations in the world.