Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates to reinvent toilets

The man who reinvented computers and made PCs a household item in most wealthy nations, Microsoft tycoon turned philanthropist Bill Gates, is now focusing his attention on recasting the toilet.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pledging millions of dollars in grants to reinvent the toilet, its director of water, sanitation and hygiene programs, Frank Rijsberman, told AFP, calling it a “huge issue for Africa.”

The aim is to boost health in developing countries by giving the 2.6 billion people who don’t have access to a WC a hygienic, safe place to go to the toilet.

Speaking by phone from a pan-African conference on sanitation that opened in the Rwandan capital Kigali Tuesday, Rijsberman said only a fraction of Africans, even in large cities, are “connected to sewers with a flush toilet.”

“In cities, people use ‘flying toilets,’” he explained.

“They go on a plastic bag and then throw it in the street, which is not only gross but kids walk around and play, and come into contact with the poop and can develop chronic diarrhea, which kills more children under the age of five than HIV/AIDS and malaria.”

Rijsberman mentioned Haiti, where by the end of last month 5,500 people had died from a cholera epidemic he said was caused by “improperly disposed-of waste” from a UN peacekeepers’ base.

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