US$ 8M grant from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for sanitation project by UNESCO-IHE and partners

A new strategy promotes adoption of safe, affordable sanitation in the developing world. The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and partners have been awarded a US$ 8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will be used to excel postgraduate sanitation education and research with a focus on solutions for the urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. This 5-year capacity building and research project was developed by Prof. Damir Brdjanovic, Professor of Sanitary Engineering at UNESCO-IHE and his team.


2011_07_plee» Gates Foundation Launches Effort to Reinvent the Toilet


“Disease caused by unsafe sanitation accounts for roughly half of all hospitalizations in the developing world”, said Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. “This statistic is unacceptable, as is the fact that many decision makers remain reluctant to talk about sanitation, further stigmatizing the topic, and perpetuating a crisis whose solutions are within our reach.”


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the grant at the AfricaSan conference in Rwanda as part of more than US$40 million in new investments launching its Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene strategy.

“UNESCO-IHE and our partners: the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand, the Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) in Indonesia, the International Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Burkina Faso, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, Makerere University Institute of Environmental, the Natural Resources (MUIENR) in Uganda, the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil and the Universidad del Valle in Colombia, have been working hand in hand with the Gates Foundation in developing the project ideas and shaping it in a way to address the needs of the 2.6 billion people worldwide who do not have access to improved sanitation”, Prof. András Szöllösi-Nagy, rector at UNESCO-IHE, explained. “I would also like to commend the Gates Foundation for recognizing these needs and for supporting innovative approaches that lead to sustainable local solutions through the foundation's Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy and Global Development Programme”, he continued.

“This is probably the largest research and postgraduate education project targeting sanitation for the urban poor ever conducted”, Prof. Damir Brdjanovic, Project Director, elaborated. “Through education and research activities this exciting project will increase the number of adequately trained sanitation professionals in developing countries. Also, it will provide research possibilities, education and training for the new generation of ‘all-round’ sanitary engineers, make postgraduate education in sanitary engineering more accessible to individuals from developing countries and further strengthen the pro-poor sanitation component at the academic institutions involved. Among other outputs, the project will deliver 5 post-doctoral fellows, 20 PhD researchers, 60 Master degree laureates, and in excess to 500 trained professionals from developing countries, an estimated stunning total of 130 man-years of research.”

“To address the needs of the 2.6 billion people who don’t have access to safe sanitation, we not only must reinvent the toilet, we also must find safe, affordable and sustainable ways to capture, treat, and recycle human waste”, said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Most importantly, we must work closely with local communities to develop lasting sanitation solutions that will improve their lives.”

Research within the project is clustered around five major themes: smart sanitation provision for slums and informal settlements; emergency sanitation following natural and anthropological disasters; resource recovery oriented decentralized sanitation; low-cost wastewater collection and treatment; and fecal sludge management.

The total project budget is US$ 11.1 million. Rather than classical input-funding, the project is partially based on output-based funding. Such innovative financial engineering provides incentives to excel and outperform the project expectations. The project will run until 2016 and will be jointly executed by UNESCO-IHE (principal grantee) and its eight partners from developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and South America.