1.5 million children die each year from preventable diseases arising from poor sanitation systems. That's why some of the world's top scientists are working to make a 21st-century toilet without links to water, energy, or sewer lines, and which costs users under $0.05 a day.
In 2011, a research team featuring several Hertz Foundation Fellows received a grant to participate in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’. To bring sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people globally who don’t have access to safe toilets, which leads to millions of deaths each year from highly preventable diseases, this team developed a self-powered combustion toilet that transforms feces into biological charcoal (biochar), clean water, and minerals. With the support of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, epidemiologist Philip Eckhoff pursued a PhD in applied and computational mathematics at Princeton University, receiving his degree in 2009.
The Hertz Foundation mission is to provide unique financial and fellowship support to the nation's most remarkable PhD students in the hard sciences. Hertz Fellowships are among the most prestigious in the world, and the foundation has invested over $200 million in Hertz Fellows since 1963 (present value) and supported over 1,100 brilliant and creative young scientists, who have gone on to become Nobel laureates, high-ranking military personnel, astronauts, inventors, Silicon Valley leaders, and tenured university professors. For more information, visit hertzfoundation.org.
Bill and Melinda Gates lay out the key accomplishments of their philanthropic foundation in response to Warren Buffet.
In 2006, famed investor and businessman Warren Buffett pledged to give away 85% of his fortune to charitable organizations, with the most sizable chunk, valued at the time at $31 billion, going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world which tackles worldwide issues related to healthcare and extreme poverty.
At the end of 2016, Buffett wrote a cordial letter to the Gateses, asking to outline what impact his gift has achieved so far. The 2017 annual letter from Bill and Melinda seeks to do just that, calling Buffett’s gift “the biggest single gift anyone ever gave anybody for anything.”
The main accomplishment of the foundation, according to the Gateses, is their work in reducing children’s mortality. In fact, what Bill and Melinda call “Our Favorite Number” is the 122 million children’s lives that have been saved since 1990. These are children that would have died had the children mortality rate not gone down. The Gates’s philanthropic work makes a particular emphasis on improving global health issues, with reducing the deaths of kids around the world being a goal that inspired them from the beginning.
“Saving children’s lives is the goal that launched our global work. It’s an end in itself. But then we learned it has all these other benefits as well. If parents believe their children will survive—and if they have the power to time and space their pregnancies—they choose to have fewer children,“ writes Melinda Gates.
In a recent tweet, Bill Gates points to the chart showing how the number of children’s deaths was cut in half, calling it "the most beautiful chart in the world”:
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) February 16, 2017