When sanitation is a human right

The iThrone, developed by change: WATER Labs is a winner in our Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards

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Chronic underinvestment in sanitation infrastructure means that in many poor and vulnerable communities, people live surrounded by their sewage. This creates health, education and violence problems for these people, as well as harming the environment.

The iThrone is a low-cost portable toilet, developed by US startup change: WATER Labs, that uses a simple membrane to rapidly evaporate 95% of wastewater. This innovative technology requires no water, electricity or plumbing.

Diana Yousef-Martinek, CEO and founder of change: WATER Labs, tells us how the idea of developing the iThrone came about: “I was lucky enough to grow up in a country where I didn’t have to worry about accessing the basic things we need to lead a healthy and productive life. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity for a good life. So I wanted to do something to help everyone have the same chance I had”, she said during her presentation of the project.

Worldwide, one in three women do not have access to a safe toilet. Studies indicate that girls are 50 per cent more likely to experience gender-based violence when they must use public toilets or find places with privacy. The fear and lack of privacy they experience causes at least 20% of girls to drop out of school because they lack safe toilets, and contributes to increased rates of early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

In addition, the lack of adequate sanitation is responsible for 80% of all infectious diseases, 4% of global deaths, and claims the life of a child every 20 seconds.

“As a mother of three young girls, I am distressed that girls all over the world don’t have that. And among the things I find most intolerable is the fact that they are forced to risk their well-being, their health and their own safety”, said Yousef-Martinek at the final ceremony of the seventh edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards.

This project, which has been chosen as the winner in the Improving Health and Digital Technology (e-Health) category of our awards, has a clear mission: to develop and implement safer, smarter and more dignified sanitation for all.

“In all of human history, no other invention has saved more lives than flush toilets, but billions of people have no access to them. The lack of safe and hygienic sanitation forces people to live in conditions where poverty, ill health and pollution are the norm. With iThrone, our solution, we can expand access to safe toilets beyond the limits of water infrastructure”, said the scientist when accepting the award.

We congratulate them on their initiative and hope that the differentiating boost offered by our Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards will help them to achieve their goal: to ensure that the most vulnerable people have access to this essential human right.