Tag Archives: Rose George

Making a stink: creating social media platforms to end #opendefecation



Make a stink -final posterThe UNICEF India WASH section is hosting a side event at the Stockholm World Water that builds on their poo2loo campign to promote the use of social nedia iniatives aimed at ending open defecation.

Journalist and author of The Big Necessity Rose George will moderate the event. Panel members Include: Stephen Brown (Global Poverty Project and Global Citizen, UK), Sanjay Wijesekera (UNICEF New York), Thorsten Kiefer (WASH United) and Sue Coates and Maria Fernandez (both from UNICEF India).

Make the Stink will be held from 12.30-14.00 on 3 September.

Register for the event

More information at: www.unicef.org/india/reallives_8970.htm

Rose George. Let’s talk crap. Seriously

Rose George – Reflections on menstrual hygiene management

Published on May 3, 2013 – Presentation by Rose George (journalist and author of ‘The Big Necessity’ http://www.rosegeorge.com) at “Making connections: Women, sanitation and health” event.

Why Toilets, Not Cell Phones, Are Key To Education Around The World

Why Toilets, Not Cell Phones, Are Key To Education Around The World Source: Forbes, Denise Restauri, Contributor, Jan 3, 2012

John Kluge’s Twitter profile: “Social Entrepreneur, Philanthropunk, Toilet Hacker, Co-Founder of Eirene, Resident Fellow @ewinstitute, Co-author Charity & Philanthropy for Dummies – New York City.” As co-Founder of Eirene, the for-profit angel firm, John only supports initiatives that will impact at least 1 billion people. First up: provide 1 million toilets to the developing world.  

John Kluge, A Committed Toilet Hacker

John Kluge, A Committed Toilet Hacker

John Kluge says things many people want to say, but don’t because they think it’s taboo. Kluge is out to change that. His “Give a Sh*t Manifesto” starts with BE THANKFUL. YOU HAVE A TOILET. 2.5 BILLION DO NOT. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS SH*T. While others whisper the word “sanitation,” John and Co-Chief Toilet Hacker, Michael Lindenmayer say it boldly. Their stickers shout out: “Disrupt SH*T” and “Poop is POWER.” With support from their partners including the World Bank, Water for People, and UNICEF– these two toilet hackers are taking on the giant-sized challenge to develop breakthrough innovations for improving access to sanitation for the world’s poor.

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NPR – Building a Better Toilet

Nov. 18, 2011 – Building a Better Toilet

Toilets, as most of us know them, haven’t changed much since the 1800s—they use a lot of water, and require an infrastructure that many communities can’t afford. Ira Flatow and guests look at the problem of access to sanitation, and how engineers are making toilets better.


This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I’m Ira Flatow. Tomorrow is World Toilet Day, and if you have a toilet, that’s a cause for celebration, because more than a third of the world’s population does not. For 2.6 billion people, going to the bathroom is, well, there is no bathroom to go to. People don’t have access to the sanitation and sewer systems that we take for granted here. Without a place to go, people defecate into ditches, waste gets dumped into waterways and diseases spread.

The sponsors of World Toilet Day are trying to change that by bringing attention to the problem. And one sponsor, the Gates Foundation, is challenging engineers to build a better toilet, giving them money to do it. It’s called the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Frank Rijsberman is director of water sanitation and hygiene at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. Dr. Rijsberman is here with us. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

FRANK RIJSBERMAN: Thank you. Good morning, Ira.

FLATOW: Good afternoon to you. Rose George is author of “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World Of Human Waste And Why It Matters.” She joins us from the BBC in Leeds. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

ROSE GEORGE: Thank you.

FLATOW: Dr. Jim McHale is vice president of engineering at American Standard Brands in Piscataway, New Jersey. You know they make all those bathroom fixtures, including that famous toilet that seems to swallow everything up on YouTube. Thank you for being with us today, Jim.

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Rose George: Why there’s a sanitation crisis – and what we can do about it

Rose George, author of the Big Necessity, writes about her visit to a village in Liberia in the Gates Foundation Blog. There she met a local pastor whose 9-month-old daughter Marie, had died in November 2010 from diarrhoea. Despite increasing attention for sanitation from organisations like the Gates Foundation and UNICEF, it is still not enough, she says.

Ask a Liberian how many children they have and they will answer carefully. “Six, living.”

In this village, the creek was everything. It carried away dead bodies in times of war. It brought animal carcasses. Its flow channeled the upstream villages’ excrement, human and animal.

The creek was drinking water, and washing water, and water that brought death. It was the water in which hopeful mothers, who had trekked four hours to the clinic for the free ORS salts, mixed the medicine.

They knew the creek water was dirty, and they still drank it. They had countless visitors tell them about hygiene and disease, and didn’t lack skills to build pits when they built their own houses. Still they used the bush for defecation. Still they tramped fecal particles back into their cooking and living areas, to be ingested and turned into diarrhea.

Sanitation, you see, is not easy.

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Rose George – Beating boring, banal diarrhoea

Basic sanitation saves lives, but many countries around the world are still a long way from achieving it.

Much has been written about the South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup, the beauty of its landscapes, and vuvuzelas: less has been said about its sanitation. I visited the country in 2007, while researching my book on sanitation. I remember its glorious views and stunningly good wine. But I also remember that it was my first encounter with a bucket toilet.

I’d been curious to know what a bucket toilet might be. Surely it couldn’t be just a bucket. But it was. This was a shock, even after I’d had to evacuate in a public toilet with no doors (in China); eaten food cooked with latrine-derived biogas (in India); and seen plenty of the second-most common toilet in the world: a roadside, with bare bottoms doing what they must (all over).

But the bucket was still a shock, as were South Africa’s sanitation statistics. Luckily, the country’s current minister for national intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, became the only cabinet minister worldwide so far to declare his job as “minister for toilets” (the actual title was minister for water affairs and forestry) after a lethal cholera outbreak in KwaZulu Natal in 2000. Money was put into sanitation programmes. Latrines were built. Most importantly though, latrines were talked about.

Kasrils wasn’t ashamed to sit on toilets for publicity shots, or to talk about the importance of safe sanitation, because he’d seen that not providing it cost money as well as lives. When Peru had a cholera outbreak in 1991, it lost $1bn trying to contain it. It could have been prevented with only $100m-worth of sanitation improvements.

Kasrils also knew, as the best sanitation professionals do, that sanitation is never just about latrines. Give a child a decent latrine, and he will stop tramping faecal particles into his living environment on his feet. He will stop dipping faecally smeared fingers into the family rice pot. He will be able to keep his food down. Poor sanitation is linked to malnutrition. There’s little point giving a child a high-protein biscuit when diarrhoea – caused by those faecal particles in water and food – washes it straight out again.

South Africa’s sanitation statistics have improved, but they are not perfect. Nor are those of the planet.

First, the good news. The world is on track to meet a Millennium Development Goal – one of seven on the wishlist – to supply people with clean drinking water by 2015. That’s wonderful news. The trouble is, the MDG is not just about providing clean water. There’s also sanitation. My heart sinks as I write this, as I’ve been writing the same things for years, and still the statistics are woeful: still donors and politicians pour money into water supply and HIV/Aids, while neglecting sanitation, and still children die of diarrhoea. Boring, banal diarrhoea.

A clean water supply reduces disease by 20%, and a latrine by nearly 40%, yet donors continue to pour money into water. It gets more funding. The National Geographic’s recent special issue on water, laudable though it is, took 109 pages to get round to the death toll from diarrhoea caused largely by poor sanitation. The sanitation part of Millennium Development Goal Seven – which was only added after great opposition – is the most off-track of all the goals. Maybe that’s why 883m people may have no access to decent drinking water, but three times that amount have to defecate in the open.

In 2000, according to the Global Water Partnership, the US spent $13bn on water and $1bn on sanitation. Across the world, water gets eight times more funding than sanitation.

If it’s not water kicking sanitation out of the way, it’s something else. Even though toiletlessness, and its accompanying faeces-related diseases, is linked to a quarter of child deaths. Even though diarrhoea kills more children than HIV/Aids. But in Madagascar, where UNAids found there were too few Aids deaths to estimate, Aids receives five times more funding than sanitation. Diarrhoea kills 14,000 Madagascan children every year.

In the same way cities are built on functioning sewer systems, good development is built on sanitation. An off-track MDG on sanitation will knock others off-track too. A girl dying of diarrhoea won’t go to school (MDG 2; achieve universal primary education); or be properly nourished (MDG 1; reduce extreme poverty and hunger) or be alive past the age of five (MDG 4; reducing child mortality).

Many activists are now shouting more loudly about sanitation and safe water provision. Great. But popular pressure is still missing. So today, as you prepare to flush your toilet – as you surely will – imagine doing your business behind a bush, while a farmer spies at you through banana leaves; or watching your child’s life pour out of him with the diarrhoea, the same way your daughter died, or your sister’s children died. Then settle down to watch the football.

The Guardian,  June 26, 2010

Rotary tackles uncomfortable topic

Rotary International’s membership magazine The Rotarian has featured many provocative humanitarian concerns on its cover in the past few years, but it hit a new mark in the January [2010] issue.

The cover features a schematic drawing of a man and a woman, the type that is found on public restroom doors, and the words, “Billions of people have nowhere to go. What a mess.”

The article by Rose George tells in excruciating detail what it’s like in places where there is literally nowhere to do what human beings do several times a day except the side of the road or beside a tree in the woods. This “problem no one wants to talk about” is actually one of the world’s major health problems, she argues, affecting 2.6 billion people who have no sanitary toilets.

Why? Because the bacteria in human feces left out in the open are carried about on hands and feet into living spaces. “It finds its way into food and drink, with desperate consequences,” George writes. “Diarrhea — 90 percent of which is caused by contaminated food or water — kills up to two million people a year, most of them children.”

Diarrhea kills more children under age 5 than AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. “In graphic terms,” she explains, “diarrhea’s death toll is equivalent to two jumbo jets full of children dying every four hours.”

Even so, the taboo nature of the topic and cultural differences that prevent uneducated people from accepting the convenience of a sanitary toilet are tough to break through. George notes that the framers of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals included sanitation in the goals with reluctance, even though preventing diarrhea would enhance the eagerly embraced goals of universal primary education, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and reducing child mortality.

Money and government concern won’t solve the problem alone, however. George tells of a failed attempt by the Indian government to introduce new sanitary latrines in the 1980s. They went unused “at least for their intended purpose,” she writes. “Maybe because they were nicer than people’s houses, so they were turned into extra storage spaces or temples.” She explains that installing new “hardware” has to be accompanied with “software”: human psychology and language to get people to embrace the sanitary toilet and abandon the old ways.

Rotary Clubs have been involved in public sanitation almost since the first club was established by Paul Harris in Chicago in 1905. The club’s very first public service project in 1907 was building “comfort stations” outside Chicago’s City Hall. Many clubs have supported international sanitation projects, the most successful of which are done in partnership with local leaders.

[The Rotary Foundation has granted more than US$4.7 million for water and sanitation projects over the past five years. An accompanying article by Jenny Llakmani, describes some of Rotary International’s sanitation projects and the technology options used].

Eco squat toilet. (1) Fecal collection (2) Urine collection (3) Washing area (4) Bamboo fertilized by wash water (5) Bamboo superstructure

We expect this cover article will get lots of Rotary Clubs talking about sanitation projects in remote corners of the world. George suggests enlisting celebrities “who happily promote a clean and shiny water faucet in a dusty village, with a photogenic child in tow, but don’t bother to take a few steps over to the latrine that has enabled that child to go back to school and prolonged her life.”

Need a new cause, Brad and Angelina? Or how about Tiger Woods? After all, he’s taking a break from golf and needs to rehabilitate his reputation.

Seriously, we hope this provocative Rotarian cover story brings attention to an uncomfortable subject that sorely needs addressing. Think about it. If the indoor toilet in your home or place of work mysteriously disappeared, where would you go?

Source: Independent Mail, 30 Dec 2009

Rose George – How to save the world with sanitation

There is a feisty old woman in every village. In Maparanhanga, a remote village in Mozambique, reached by a several-hour-trip through potholes held together by scraps of road, the feisty old woman didn’t stand out at first. She sat alongside her female neighbors in a circle divided by age and gender — men standing on one side, women sitting in another group, children closing the circle — watching with some horror as a young man, unknown to her before today, asked her to eat some nice meat and rice.

It was considered high-class food in this rural area where meat stew is a luxury and two months of the year around harvesting are known as “the hunger period.” And still she said, no way, her face showing nothing but disgust. Why not? Because the nice meat and rice had been placed next to some human feces, carefully arranged on a piece of paper, and she had watched, along with the rest of the village, as flies happily flew from shit to food and back again.

This cannot have been a new event: as is the case in 80 percent of villages in Mozambique, and countless others worldwide, the only latrine available to villagers was bushland. Left in the open, the shit would surely have come back into the village on flip-flops and feet and fingers; on chicken claws and dog paws. That was how it had always been. Nothing wrong with it. But seeing the shit and food together was a revelation. There were gasps, screams, embarrassed laughter. The children covered their mouths; the old woman looked outraged. She was seeing her living environment with fresh eyes, and with those fresh eyes had come disgust.

And with disgust comes change — or so goes the theory of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). CLTS, a methodology aimed at improving the parlous state of global sanitation, was developed ten years ago by the Indian agricultural scientist Kamal Kar. Community-Led, because it’s not supposed to be about instruction but revelation. Total Sanitation, because that’s the goal: there’s little point in 90 percent of villagers having a latrine when the other ten percent are still tramping shit back into the living environment.

The need for this theory, and the change that comes with it, are more significant than one would assume. The idea of defecating in the open air to a toilet may seem unthinkable (though it’s the reality of four in ten people on the planet, or 2.6 billion), but it is a curious fact that even if someone has a latrine, they may not choose to use it despite the obvious and less obvious risks. Human excrement can carry up to fifty communicable diseases. Diarrhea, 90 percent of which is caused by food and water contaminated by excrement, kills a child every fifteen seconds. That’s more than AIDS, malaria, or measles, combined. Human feces are an impressive weapon of mass destruction.

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The politics of toilets – Rose George

The Politics of Toilets, By Rose George

On Earth Day, let’s not forget the dirt. The planet is soiled with sewage, on land and sea. Our waste is the biggest marine pollutant there is, according to the United Nations Environment Program. In the developing world, ninety percent of sewage is discharged untreated into oceans and rivers, where its high nutrient content can suffocate the life out of seas, contributing to dead zones (405 worldwide and counting).

There are dead zones on land, too. Human waste contaminates environments all over the world, rich and poor. Imagine getting up at 4 a.m. in darkness, trekking to a nearby bush or field, and going to the bathroom out in the open. Imagine then being hit by a farmer who doesn’t like you toileting in his field, or being raped by someone taking advantage of the dark, which you need to preserve your modesty. The quarter of the world’s population without access to sanitation – not even a bucket nor a box – don’t have to imagine this. It’s their daily reality. What’s more, all that excrement lying around has deadly consequences. More children – up to 2 million a year, or one every 15 seconds or so – die of diarrhea, 90 percent of which is due to fecal contamination in food or liquid, than of TB, malaria or HIV/AIDS. Diarrhea is the world’s most effective weapon of mass destruction.

That’s the gloom. The good news is that it’s solvable. And solving the world’s sewage mess would be such a bargain that it should appeal to politicians holding the purse strings even in these straitened times. Investing $1 in sanitation reaps $8 in health costs averted and labor days saved. Look at it another way: not investing $1 in sanitation loses you $7. Last year the World Bank calculated that poor sanitation cost Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam between 1.4 and 7.2 percent of their GDP. When Peru had a cholera outbreak in 1991, losses from tourism and agricultural revenue were three times greater than the total money spent on sanitation in the previous decade.

If numbers are too technical, let’s get practical: Installing latrines and clean water supply in a typical village has dramatic effects.

In the far reaches of Orissa, India, I visited the leader of a village named Samiapalli, which until recently had no sanitation and endemic open defecation in nearby woods and along roadsides. Of course, those weren’t the villagers’ only problems: they also faced rampant alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and persistent caste discrimination. Today is different. Although it took 162 meetings to get everyone to agree to install one (and to contribute to the cost), everybody has a latrine, bathing room and running water. With the confidence gained through those 162 meetings, women had kicked out the illegal alcohol brewers (and tied the most persistently violent men to a lamp-post). Eighty percent more girl children now went to school, the leader told me. Women were earning money growing peanuts and selling other goods at market, with the free time they had gained from not having to spend hours finding somewhere private to do their business, or to fetch cripplingly heavy water. Diarrhea had dropped dramatically (a latrine can reduce disease by 40 percent; a clean water supply reduces it by 20 percent.)

Sanitation isn’t a symptom of development. It can trigger it. “It’s the hardest entry point,” says Joe Madiath, whose NGO Gram Vikas had helped bring the toilet revolution to Samiapalli. “But once you succeed with sanitation, you can do anything.”

Samiapalli’s story, and those of other sanitation success stories, makes the lack of international resources for sanitation baffling. A target of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (though it was included late and against great opposition), sanitation continues to lag far behind access to clean water, an easier topic to sell and publicize. Celebrities happily promote a village’s shiny new faucets, preferably with a photogenic child nearby, but fail to make the logical step over to the new latrines that have lengthened that child’s life and enabled her to go to school.

These priorities persist behind the cameras. The United Nations Human Development Report noted in 2006 noted that water and sanitation budgets in most countries are less than 0.5% of GDP; and of that pittance, 90% goes on clean water supply. Things may be improving, but slowly: The times when much of the U.S.’s overseas water and sanitation budget went toward restoring infrastructure in places it had helped destroy – notably Iraq and Afghanistan – are thankfully over. Paul Simon’s Water for the Poor Act has actually been allocated proper money ($300 million), and the Reports to Congress about the act laudably mention “sanitation.” But there are still 994 references to water in the report, and only 249 mentions of “sanitation.”

This is understandable, given how long sanitation has been in water’s shadow. And the fact that sanitation is mentioned at all is cheering. But we must not let that semantic imbalance translate into an imbalance of funds allocated for sanitation — the most off-track target, after all, of all the targets in the Millennium Development Goals.

The International Year of Sanitation ended in December, but our pressure on politicians and donor agencies should not. Funds that have long gushed away to the cause of clean water, at the expense of sanitation, should be diverted back. In financially straitened times, it makes economic sense to invest in the most cost-effective health prevention mechanism we have. With a new Global Sanitation Fund up and running, it couldn’t be easier. Earth Day is as good a day as any to remember that sewage may be dirt, but sanitation shouldn’t be treated like it.

Rose George is a freelance journalist and author of The Big Necessity , an eye-opening report on the shocking realities of the world’s sanitation crisis.

Source – Washington Post Global