An estimated $260 billion USD is lost every year from a lack of access to sanitation, according to the World Bank.
“We have to fix sanitation if we want to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost the incomes of the poorest 40 percent,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement on April 19.
"From my background in health, I know well the magnitude of the problem. This is an absolutely critical intervention. The impact of inadequate sanitation lies at the core of so many barriers to prosperity faced by poor people – health, education, environment, wealth, equity, and dignity. The return on investment is high, especially for the poor.”
One out of every three people in the world do not have a toilet, the bank announced. Without proper sanitation systems, germs and disease are unknowingly spread – and are the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five.
It also leads to economic losses due to environmental damage and loss of tourism opportunities.
The World Bank says it is the largest multilateral financer of water and sanitation development, having committed $4 billion in 2011.
“We support the effort for access to proper sanitation by 2025 for everyone," Kim said.
“We can achieve this goal and transform the lives of billions of people over the next several years. It will take real commitment and action from the heads of state of our client countries, as well as collaboration with all of our partners in civil society and the private sector. We can do this.”
To that end, the bank on April 19 announced three grand prize winners of the Sanitation Hackathon, a yearlong project to develop technological solutions to some of the world’s largest sanitation services issues.
“The Sanitation Hackathon and App Challenge demonstrate how creativity and technology can help to develop locally relevant and sustainable solutions to longstanding development challenges,” said Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank.
“Alongside strong policies and financing mechanisms, this open and innovative approach to problem solving will be critical to improving sanitation around the world. This is key to ending poverty and boosting prosperity for the poorest people,” she said.
The three grand prize winners were chosen out of 70 registered participants.
Manobi, a mobile and internet services firm from Dakar, Senegal, was chosen for its mSchool project, a SMS reporting tool that enables students, parents and teachers to monitor and report on school sanitation facilities.
Sun-Clean, an application designed by students at the University of Indonesia, teaches children good sanitation and hygiene practices; while Taarifa, an open-source web application from a team of developers from England, Germany, Tanzania and the United States, enables public officials to tag and respond to citizen complaints about delivery of sanitation services.
The first-ever Sanitation Hackathon was held from December 1-2. It was modeled on the successful Water Hackathon of October 2011, bringing together software developers, designers and programmers to find technological solutions to a crisis that affects some 2.5 billion people worldwide and costs billions of dollars in economic losses annually.
The Sanitation App Challenge ran for the entire month of December.
The Hackathon was a collaborative effort between the bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Random Hacks of Kindness, Eirene, Nokia, Open Cities, Google and Civic Commons, among others.
It took place at several locations worldwide, including Dhaka, Bangladesh; Cape Town, South Africa; Dakar, Senegal; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Helsinki, Finland; Jakarta, Indonesia; Lahore, Pakistan; Lima, Peru; London, United Kingdom; Manila, Philippines; Pune, India; and the North American cities of Atlanta, Hartford, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.
Each location was tasked with working on sanitation problems unique to their circumstances.
Also this week, the World Bank released its 2013 edition of World Development Indicators, which showed an overall global improvement towards reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) despite glaring differences among countries.
It found that the number of people living in extreme poverty has decreased by 100 million since 2008, although 1.2 billion people were living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010. The global extreme poverty rate has been cut in half from 1990, when the rate was 43.1 percent. It is now 20.6 percent.
"World Development Indicators are arguably the most important data resource for understanding development progress,” said Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the bank.