World's Lack of Sanitation

Toilets Can Change the World


Toilet Names

  1. Laboratory
  2. Shatter
  3. Thunder box
  4. ILoo
  5. Outhouse
  6. Head
  7. Potty
  8. Privvie
  9. Bog
  10. Throne
  11. Water closet
  12. Pot
  13. Ditch
  14. Confessional
  15. 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


Health Concerns

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

In Summary

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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Comments 39 comments

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

World's Lack of Sanitation this is an eye-opener, I know a family who lives not so far away from us and they don't have proper toilets this is unbelievable in this time of life. Instead buckets are used, also there is no bathroom available. A problem is in many parts of Africa and it is difficult of the way these people live in poo sanitation. Interesting hub about this issue.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

DDE, I read some statistics and just felt the need to write about this problem, as it is so much worse than I thought. I know Africa is one of the worse places for proper santitation. Thank you so much for your comments and input.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is a stark reminder that there is much to be done throughout the world. How very sad that this is a reality, can you imagine being without water? This is something i never think about, i will now. Thank you for an eye-opening article and video....

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Ruby, I never thought about it either, and it is a sad reality. Thanks so much for your comments.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I love the work that the Gates Foundation is doing around the world. I love the fact that a guy richer than some countries is using his resources to help the unfortunate. Gives me some hope for the future. :)

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Billy, I feel the same way. He is involved with some many worthwhile projects and this certainly a major one. Thanks for the comments.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Dear Pamela, this is a sad reality, especially to think of in this so-called advanced technological world we live in. My church went to a small village in Africa and dug a well for fresh water, for they were having to travel over a mile to a river, where the people were often eaten by crocodiles/alligators, whichever! The things we take for granted, many would think they are luxuries for sure.

Many are helping and giving of their time and resources, but many more could do much more. We all can do something.

Up and more and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Faith, Our chuch has done a lot of work in the Dominican Republic in a very poor area, and there is such a sense of satisfaction in helping people that cannot help themselves. We do need so much more, and I wish I knew enough really good stories to write a hub. Thanks so much for your comments. and the sharing.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

This is disgusting that 3/4 of the world is reduced to drinking and cooking with tainted water. I'm glad to hear Bill Gates is using his gazillions to do something about it.

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

I know whereof you write, Pamela, since I have visited places where the toilet facilities consisted of two footprints and a hole in the ground in the middle. Sometimes the footprints were missing and only the hole was present.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Barbara, I am glad to read that someone so rich has done so much in the world to make things better, as there are many rich people who don't help, I agree the statistics are horrid. Thanks for your comments.

drbj, It is a sad state of affairs to know people must live this way. I appreciate your comments.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

Pamela, this is a great hub on a very serious topic. It is probably the number one priority that the world should be concerned with fixing.

(Please check your sub-headings 'History Of Sanitation' and 'Health Concerns'...the text is have two titles 'Health Concerns'. I think the first needs to be deleted. ) Voted up.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Jodah, I must have copied and pasted incorrectly. Thank you for letting me know.

I do think this is one of the most serious problems on this planet. I appreciate your comments.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thank you for publicizing this very serious problem, Pamela. We are so lucky to live in countries with modern sanitation systems! It's very wrong that people in some parts of the world lack a hygienic way to dispose of excrement. It's good to read that some people are helping to solve this problem, but more needs to be done.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Alicia, It was shocking to me when I read the high number of people that had no means of sanitation. Much more does need to be done. Thanks for your comments.

epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

This is so hard to believe that some places still don't have proper sanitation. A very eye-opening hub!

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Liz, I thought this hub would surprise people since the need is so vast. Thanks for your comments.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Many people do not realize the aid the Gates Foundation provides to third world countries. He has pumped millions into helping them to dig wells, build roads, etc. I have not heard of the toilet being called the Thunder Box, it fits though! Interesting post and you have made people think.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Diana, It would be easy to write a whole hub about all the good works Bill Gates and his wife have done. They are more than generous. I appreciate your comments.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Pam, the more I travel the more I realize what a problem this is. We don't know how good we have it here in the US when it comes to sanitation. Good for the Gates for realizing that this is a problem of global proportions. Great job. Voted up, shared, etc...

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Probably a subject most people don't think about and that's probably because they have a bathroom like yours (myself included). I know we have come a long way, I remember a time when we used to watch the water flushed from a toilet jut out into a creek where men fished and children, in New York State!

Some progress has been made but certainly lots more needs to be made especially in poorer areas.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Wow, those statistics are just mind-boggling. I will be thinking about this information for a long time, every time I go to the toilet. 6 out of 10.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

What an eye-opener! I had no idea. I couldn't imagine not having a shower and toilet. 6 out of 10 people. Wow.

By the way I like your comment to Teaches about writing a hub about the works of Bill Gates. Great idea!!

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

bdegiullo, With all the traveling you have done, I imagine you do realize this more than the average person. Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Jo, I remember traveling through some rural areas when I was a child and having only an outhouse to use. We have come a long way, but the world has a long way to go. Thanks so much for your comments and sharing your experience.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Rebecca, The statistics affected me the same way, which is why I wrote this hub. I didn't know if it would get read as it was not entertaining like so many other hubs, but I felt like people should know just how dismal these statistics are for most of the world. I appreciate your comments.

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Linda, I think the statistics surprised everyone. That hub is a good idea and I may write one about him as I have read of many projects where he has made a huge impace. Of course, if Diane has written one, I wouldn't. Thanks so much for your comments.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

brakel2 profile image

brakel2 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Pamela. You brought attention to something we don't think about. One thing we do is neglect existing restrooms. Unflushed toilets, toilet paper and paper towels on the floor, people who don't wash hands. This is in addition to the countries that lack good facilities. Thank you for sharing this serious issue. Blessings. Audrey

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Audry, You make a good point about public restrooms. I guess children just are not taught and when they become adults the bad habits continue. I avoid public restrooms when possible. Thanks so much for your comments. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving day.

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

Hi, Pamela. How are you? I am glad to see you again. I love reading the history of sanitation. It's one of the major need of live and one of the most important things of live. Maybe...I can't live without toilet. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Voted up :-)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Prasetio, I am glad to see you again also. I appreciate your comments as always. I agree with you completely.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Looking at the facts about how much of the world lives is always eye-opening. Glad to see the need highlighted to help awareness.

We seem to have a knack for plumbing issues at holidays and this year is no exception. A tiny, unknown-for-too-long leak created a huge problem that manifested itself over Thanksgiving. Christmas is in a few days and we are still working to put the main bathroom back together.

We've tried to be cheerful and remind ourselves of all we have to be thankful for. One thing we told ourselves is that we can be thankful that we have plumbing to break down and that we are not residents of a worse-than-sad Nairobi slum. The collective problems in such places are so overwhelming that the people cannot help themselves, but there are some efforts to provide solutions.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

R Talloni, I'm sorry you are having plumbing problems. We have had our share of them also and finally got a new drain field again as apparently the last one was not very good. Yet, you are right. We are fortunate as compared to those people who live in the areas without any plumbing. Thanks for the comments and I hope your problems are resolved quickly.

jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

This is really an eyeopening info my friend. In spite the modern technology, there are still parts of the world that do not have the basic for health and sanitation.

Also, I think from now on, I will call the toilet thunder Box. it has a nice ring to it. :)

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

jpcmc, It is a shame that so much of the world does not have modern plumbing. I like that name also. Thanks for your comments.

jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

@Pamela99 Wouldn't be great if we can share some of our earnings with organizations that help other people?

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

jpcmc, We can donate to a variety of organizations of our choosing now, but I think you might be talking about donating a percentage of our earnings to an organization. I am involved in two organizations and one helps school children. The other is one where we all donated food each month to poor families. I hate the thought of a child going to be at night hungry. Thanks for your comments.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Just one more reminder Pamela of how fortunate we are. We take for granted our sewage and sanitation systems ...

Angels are on the way to you and to those for whom this is a problem.

Maybe we can become part of the solution somehow. ps

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Patricia, We do take it for granted until there is some problem in our plumbing. I wish there was a way for everyone to help as I can't even imagine living without plumbing. They deserve the angels. Thanks for your comments. God Bless.

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