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The State of Sanitation Around the World – What Statistics Say

Updated on June 28, 2016
Access to Sanitation Across the World
Access to Sanitation Across the World

We Take Sanitation for Granted

Those of us who live in the developed world have easy access to a good sanitation infrastructure, clean water, toilets, an effective sewage system. Department stores are filled with products to help maintain good hygiene. Those who have the resources don’t even have to worry about laundry; they can use the services of companies that provide laundry and dry-cleaning services. But what about those in less developed countries?

According to a World Health Organisation report, diarrhea related disease, caused primarily by poor sanitation and hygiene practices, remains the second leading cause of death among children under five years of age. In fact, diarrhea kills 760,000 children under the age of five each year. Globally, there are 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea each year. Diarrhea is not just a killer, it is also the leading cause of malnutrition among children under the age of five. Diarrhea is so easily preventable and treatable, but the lack of good sanitation and hygiene is what thwarts those trying to fight this disease.

Diarrhea Can Kill
Diarrhea Can Kill

State of Sanitation around the World

According to United Nations’ estimates, 2.5 billion people around the world still do not use a good sanitation facility. Sadly, a little over 1 billion people still practice open defecation. There has been some progress over the years. Since 1990, almost 1.9 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation facilities. The greatest progress has been in East Asia, where sanitation coverage improved from 27% in 1990 to 67% in 2011. However, sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are still behind.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 44% of the population uses either shared or very basic facilities; an estimated 26% still resorts to open defecation. In Southern Asia, the segment of the population using shared or very basic facilities has declined to 18%, but open defecation remains the highest of any region, with 39% of the population still resorting to this practice. The 2015 Millennium Development Goal target to reduce by half the proportion of the population without access to proper sanitation facilities was missed by almost 700 million people.

Inadequate Sanitation
Inadequate Sanitation

Health Impact of Poor Sanitation

According to “Sanitation and Health”, a paper written by Duncan Mara, Jon Lane, Beth Scott and David Trouba, lack of sanitation contributes to approximately 10% of the disease burden across the world. The most common health impact of poor sanitation is diarrhea, which in turn also causes malnutrition and stunted growth. A study in Salvador, Brazil, found that an increase in sewerage coverage from 26% to 80% of the target population resulted in a 22% reduction of the incidence of diarrhea in children under 3 years of age. Malnutrition can make young children susceptible to acute respiratory infections.

Another health impact of poor sanitation is the prevalence of tropical diseases such as trachoma, a leading cause of blindness, hookworm, a gastrointestinal infection, and schistosomiasis, which can cause chronic debilitation. It isn’t just sanitation related to the environment but also your own body and your clothes that will ensure the best hygiene and therefore health, say experts at Regalia Club.

Water Facts
Water Facts

Lack of water, sanitation and hygiene and its effects on nutrition

The WASH Initiatives are Tackling Global Sanitation Issues

WASH stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. UNICEF has various programs spread across many countries to address each of these aspects. UNICEF’s water programs are aimed at increasing the access of children to safe water, by working on the quality of the water they have access to, and the distance they must travel to access this water. With regards to sanitation, UNICEF is focusing on access to and use of basic toilets, and also ways to separate human waste from contact with people. UNICEF is also endeavoring to promote good hygiene practices, especially hand-washing with soap.

The Centers for Disease Control’s global WASH program, spread across 30 countries, is working on providing access to clean water, improving hygiene and sanitation, providing its own expertise by responding to international outbreaks, working on controlling the spread of diseases, and training and educating about its global WASH program.

Sustainable Sanitation
Sustainable Sanitation


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