A toilet summit to be held in Durban in December will attempt to lift the lid on problems a lack of sanitation can cause.
However, the 12th World Toilet Summit would be about serious matters, said Alfie Heeger, the man responsible for bringing the event to South Africa, on Tuesday.
He said in the time it would take to read this article at least four children under the age of five would have died because of a lack of sanitation.
Heeger, chairman of the SA Toilet Organisation, said in South Africa alone there were some 1.4 million households, or about five million people, who did not have access to toilets -- most of them in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
Another 3.6 million South African households had poor or inadequate facilities that needed to be upgraded or replaced.
Without proper toilet facilities one child died every 15 seconds, according to the World Health Organisation, from diseases such as diarrhoea caused by oral faecal contamination.
There was no shortage of toilets or toilet manufacturers, but rather a lack of political will, said Heeger. He said some municipalities in the Free State and Limpopo had not put out tenders for building toilet facilities for more than two years. Another problem was a promise of flush toilets in a water-scarce country.
"We have to look at alternatives. We need to promote the saving of resources," Heeger said.
The alternative was the installation of waterless, chemical-free toilets where the by-products could be used as fertiliser in agriculture.
The summit organisers hoped to muster the individual and collective minds of academics, legal professionals, technical specialists and other players to relieve the plight of 600 million Africans without access to proper sanitation.
The summit, to be held at Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from December 3, would also see the grand finale of the African Toilet Design Competition.
Entrants, who need to design the most environmentally friendly and affordable chemical-free and waterless toilet, would pocket R55,000 for their efforts.
About 1000 international delegates were expected to attend.