World's Lack of Sanitation
Toilets Can Change the World
- Thunder box
- Water closet
- Porcelain God
Why are there not Enough Toilets?
Most of the people in developed countries don’t think twice about their primary sanitation fixture, which is the toilet. It is something that we really don’t want to talk about, as compared to news of a new medical breakthrough for a disease or a new invention.
However, did you know that six out of ten people in the world (2.6 billion people) must discard their excrement in buckets, fields, bags and ditches according to a study commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme?
Some of the main reasons responsible for the situation are the lack of priority given to this problem, inadequate financial resources and a lack of sustainable, good water supply. Even hospitals, health centers and schools in public places in poor countries do not have adequate sanitation.
History of Sanitation
North America and Europe began building sanitation systems in the 1800s to make sure drinking water was far away from pathogen–bearing fecal matter. Unfortunately, today 1.1 billion people drink water that is contaminated by human and/or animal feces. This is a much greater problem than a matter of having a convenient toilet, as fecal matter can transmit cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and parasites
Pit Latrine in Africa
The United Nations says 1.8 million children die annually from preventable diseases because they do not have a clean place to go to the bathroom. There are numerous examples that contribute to this problem, such as the 290,000 gallons of raw sewage flowing into the Ganges River in India every minute, as reported by the World Health Organization. In some countries, like Sierra Leone and Guinea, heavy rains cause latrines to flood, and in 2012 the flooding caused the cholera outbreak that killed 392 people and sickened 25,000 others.
There are other health concerns as well, such as:
- Trachoma is the leading preventable cause of blindness.
- Women must travel further in many areas, which places them at risk for sexual violence. This causes many women to use “Flying toilets” that are basically plastic bags, which are a breeding ground for disease.
- The lack of proper toilets sometimes causes children not to go to school, particularly girls.
How can This Problem be Resolved?
Engineers and scientists are working on ways to develop the ability to process wastewater that will save energy and reclaim drinking water. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation founded the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge", and their goal was to challenge engineers to develop sanitary, waterless toilets that do not require a sewer connection or electricity. The cost would be less than five cents per day.
Bill Gates announced the winners of this challenge, which included the California Institute of Technology, and they received the first prize, which is $100,000. This University developed a solar powered toilet that generates electricity and hydrogen. The second prize ($60,000) was won by Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, as they developed a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals and clean water.
The third prize ($40,000) was received by the University of Toronto in Canada for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine, plus recovers resources and clean water. A special recognition prize of $40,000 went to Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) for their excellent design of a toilet user interface.
United Nation’s Sanitation Ladder
Many people feel that sanitation has not been addressed as it’s not a political agenda since it primarily impacts poor people in poor countries. The UN development goals strive to move people up what they call the ”sanitation ladder”, so this problem can be openly discussed, and new solutions will hopefully eliminate this horrible problem. This is an expensive problem if you’re discussing connecting a household to a modern sewer system, so pit latrines are being built. Health experts see an enormous payoff in improved sanitation as it will result in a 30 percent reduction in child mortality.
For instance, in Peru the pit latrines have lowered diarrhea rates by one half, and having a flush toilet drops the wrist by 70 percent. In other countries, such as Mexico and Brazil huge numbers of people are connected to the sewage system, however, less than one fifth of the wastewater is treated.
Obvious Problem and Inadequate Solutions
Obviously, this is a huge sanitary problem for poor countries around the world. I know of no organizations where you can contribute to this problem, so if someone has some ideas, please share them in the comment section. I am pleased to know the UN and the Gates Foundation are making progress in this area, but we certainly have a long way to go when you consider the vast number of people without proper sanitation and clean water.
Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis
I will go in to my bathroom for a nice hot shower before bed to help me relax. I’ll use my electric toothbrush to brush my teeth, and, of course, I have the toilet at my convenience. I never realized how blessed I am as compared to six out of 10 people in the world.
© 2013 Pamela Oglesby
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