National

Lixil takes the lead in affordable and clean toilets for developing nations

Kyodo

Lixil Group Corp. has been offering affordable and clean toilets to help enhance sanitation in developing nations.

The major toilet and housing equipment manufacturer has put in place 1.2 million units of the “safe toilet,” known as SATO, in developing countries through donations by citizens’ groups and foundations as well as Lixil’s direct sales.

The program has helped an estimated 6 million people, according to the company.

The toilet, developed in 2012 by Lixil’s American Standard brand, was launched in Bangladesh in 2013 and has since become commercially available in Uganda, Kenya and India.

SATO is designed to flush waste with only 200 milliliters of water. It features a counterweighted trap door to minimize odors as well as the passage of flies and other disease-carrying insects, said Tadashi Matsuoka of the Tokyo-based company.

The toilet is structured so simply that it can be produced in the targeted developing countries, the company said.

Lixil is hoping to reach an additional 15 million people with plans to manufacture and distribute toilets in Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, Haiti, Ghana, Malawi and the Philippines with $1 million in funding under a program launched in September by the U.N. General Assembly.

The Water Innovation Engine, established by the U.N. High Level Panel on Water, is responsible for the Urban Sanitation Challenge program, which funds projects tackling poor sanitation in developing countries.

“Priced from $2 to $10, depending on model and country, (Lixil toilets) offer an effective, affordable way to mitigate the dangers and unpleasantness of typical pit latrines,” according to Grand Challenges Canada, which leads the program.

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Canadian government and other partners. It provides funds to innovators to help improve lives in low- and middle-income countries.

The blue plastic toilet “looks simple but is designed by utilizing knowledge of hydrodynamics,” said Akane Odake, a senior manager at Lixil.

According to the company, approximately 2.3 billion people around the world lack access to safe and sanitary toilets, of whom 892 million are forced to practice open defecation.

What’s more, every day 800 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea-related diseases due to unclean water or poor sanitary conditions, it said.

Lixil hopes to make the venture a standalone business by 2020 and improve hygienic conditions for 100 million people.

“We set up the social toilet department in 2016 to help resolve the grave problem of sanitation in developing countries,” Matsuoka said.

Lixil carried out a campaign from April to September to donate a SATO unit to developing countries every time it sold one of its integrated shower toilets.

The response to the program has been better than imagined, said Lixil spokeswoman Yuka Okamoto.

“As more than 200,000 units have been donated, we believe (the program) has raised the public awareness about sanitary problems in developing countries,” she said.