American Standard Brands Embarks on Socially Responsible Project in Developing Countries

American Standard Brands has partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and test a low-cost, prefabricated toilet system as part of a challenge to improve safety and sanitation in developing countries.

40 per cent of the world’s population lacks proper sanitation and around 1.2 billion people have to resort to open defecation. As a consequence, an estimated 1.6 million people, mostly children under the age of five, die each year from water and sanitation related diseases.

"A majority of these deaths are preventable through access to proper sanitation, safe drinking water and improved hygiene," said Jay Gould, American Standard Brands president and chief executive officer.

The problem is particularly severe in Africa. According to the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), eighteen African countries lose around US$5.5 billion every year due to poor sanitation, with annual economic losses between 1 percent and 2.5 percent of GDP.

“The 18 African countries represented in this study account for 554 million people - that’s more than half of Africa’s population,” said WSP Manager Jaehyang So. “This is powerful evidence for Ministers that their countries will not be able to grow sustainably without addressing these costs.”

The study covered Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia

Eliminating the practice of open defecation in these countries would require about 23 million toilets to be built and used. Open defecation costs more per person than any other type of unimproved sanitation. Time lost to finding a discrete location to use the toilet accounted for almost US$500 million in economic losses. Women shoulder a huge proportion of this cost as they spend additional time accompanying young children or sick or elderly relatives.

American Standard engineers will work to develop a prefabricated toilet system that is more hygienic, easier to install, easier to maintain and clean, and can be economically mass-produced. Besides the Gates Foundation's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy, the International Development Enterprises (iDE) is also supporting the initiative.

"Our goal is to develop a safe, affordable, latrine for the developing world that does not require a water and sewer based infrastructure," explained project director, Jim McHale, Ph.D., American Standard Brands vice president, engineering.

The United Nations has set for 2015 the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people who lack safe drinking water and basic sanitation by the year 2015. McHale believes his company’s contribution to improved sanitation will help the UN to achieve this goal.

Image credit: American Standard Brands