Japan, home of the high-tech loo, hopes basic toilet can save lives

Japan may be famous for high-tech toilets, but one local firm is hoping a much more basic model can help solve deadly sanitation problems in developing countries.

More than two billion people around the world do not have access to basic sanitation facilities, and children are especially susceptible to diseases that can spread without hygienic toilets.

Household products firm Lixil has developed a latrine that sells for just a few dollars and features a self-sealing trapdoor to keep out disease-spreading insects and seal in unpleasant odours.

The company has partnered with UNICEF, which will help promote its SATO toilet in developing countries. Andres Franco, UNICEF’s deputy director for private sector engagement, said on Thursday that the partnership would capitalise on Lixil’s “business, their technology, their knowledge, their innovation.”

Under the partnership, UNICEF will promote the SATO toilets in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, Lixil president Kinya Seto said, with the aim of helping 250 million people gain access to an adequate toilet by 2021.

About 2.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to basic sanitation facilities, including 892 million people who have no choice but to defecate in the open, according to UNICEF. “This takes away people’s dignity, it renders them vulnerable to life-threatening diseases,” UNICEF deputy executive director Shanelle Hall said.

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