Sanitation Issues to be Addressed at World Toilet Summit and Expo

Health and sanitation experts from around the world are expected to discuss new ways to provide safe and hygienic toilets for the world's population at the ninth annual World Toilet Summit and Expo scheduled to take place at The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, Macau, on November 4-6, 2008.

Jointly organised by the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and MP Asia (MPA) in partnership with the Asian Development Bank, the three-day meeting will feature more than 70 speakers from over 40 countries, to exchange ideas on improving basic sanitation to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases that endanger millions of people worldwide every year.

Themed 'Driving Sustainable Sanitation through Market-based Initiatives', this year's Summit is positioned as an action-oriented platform to establish partnerships in the private, public and humanitarian sectors. There will also be active discussion on sanitation policies, design and technology, school and disaster sanitation, and funding facilities.

Coinciding with the United Nations (UN) International Year of Sanitation, the event will not only address current sanitation needs and challenges, but how these issues can be resolved through sustainable practices as well as a collaborative approach that combines the efforts of the community, and the public and private sectors.

Agenda highlights will include a special track by The International Code Council covering global standards and practices necessary for building toilets in urban environments. Leading practitioners Lien Aid and Unilever Vietnam will also provide insights into their experiences in Asia, whilst panel discussions will showcase the latest toilet innovations and designs.

According to UN estimates, 2.5 billion people -- around 40 per cent of the world's population -- live without access to basic sanitation. Lack of organised sanitation means that an estimated 1.8 million children die of diarrhea annually, whilst half of the population in developing countries suffers from health problems caused by water and sanitation defects at any given time.

To address this crisis, the UN, as part of its Millennium Development Goals, has set a mandate to halve this figure by 2015, with the aim of remedying the situation by finding ways for toilets to be available for everyone in the world by 2025.

Given the magnitude of the problem, Mr. Jack Sim, Founder of the WTO, states the objective of the Summit is to facilitate discussions on evolving sanitation practices to ensure UN objectives are achieved. "The Summit will examine challenges faced by different countries, whilst providing opportunities for participants to discuss shared issues and find solutions to common problems," he remarks.

Displays of new, sustainable technologies will be showcased at the summit exposition, which comprising over 100 exhibitors, will feature innovations from self-cleaning toilets and solar-powered commodes that run without water, to recyclable systems which by converting waste into biogas can be used to provide hot water for bathing and washing purposes.

In addition, Mr. Sim notes that other critical issues to be discussed include the lack of funding for sanitation projects worldwide, which is one of the biggest problems faced by countries with poor facilities. Another focal point is the need to educate people, particularly in developing regions on the proper use and maintenance of toilets in order to improve public health and enhance their quality of life.

Commenting on why Macau was selected as the venue for the 2008 Summit, Mr. Sim expresses that public lavatories across many parts of China, unfortunately, still fall short of international standards, and the staging of the event locally would showcase how improvements could help the host nation lower public health costs and increase the well-being of citizens.

With the upcoming Asian Games in Guangzhou, and World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, and the recent Sichuan earthquake, he notes that tourism sanitation as well as disaster sanitation has both become timely and essential issues for industry professionals in China. "Over half of the 2.5 billion people in the world without basic sanitation are living in either India or China," Mr. Sim concludes.

"Subsequently, this is a stark reminder of the challenges facing developing nations despite their rapid economic growth."

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