One third of world population lacks access to toilets

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8th July 2015 16:24 - Health

According to a joint report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, a third of the world’s people do not have access to toilets. 

The report evaluates the advancement on global benchmarks set in 2000; to give everyone access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, along with other aims, in areas such as poverty, hunger, disease and inequality.  With those targets coming to an end this year, the UN is aiming for an up to date set of “sustainable development goals”, which will focus on how $2.5 trillion in development funds will be spent, up to 2030.

Because of lack of sanitation education, these people continue to pollute water sources, thereby jeopardising public health and safety for millions of people around the globe.  Unsurprisingly, this pollution leads to malnutrition and childhood growth issues; mentally and physically harming 161 million children every year.

WHO’s public health department director, Dr Maria Neira, said: “Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases”.

However, previous trials have not gone in vain; since 1990 2.1 billion people have been gaining access to better sanitation facilities, according to the report.  Though, it seems a substantial improvement needs to be made as, especially among the poor in rural areas, 946 million people are still defecating outdoors – this number is included in the 2.4 billion people who have not seen any improvement in water and sanitation standards.


Research shows that India appears to be the country most prevalent in this issue; where, sometimes not even due to a lack of facilities, some of 640 million people are toileting outside in the open.  Even though toilets have been installed in their homes, some men still prefer going outdoors.

700,000 children die every year via diarrheal diseases – most of which could have been prevented if people knew more about the risks of bad sanitation.  Even though Indian governments have made promises to install toilets in every home, only minor efforts have been made to educate the masses about the risks of these unhygienic practices. 

India’s government recently slashed its’ sanitation budget in half – even though 100 million toilets still need to be built, to give people access to better toilet habits.  Experts say that India needs to actually invest more funds, additionally, on campaigns to educate people and change behaviours.

“There is a kind of a feeling among politicians that, if we ignore the problem it will go away,” said Nitya Jacob, who leads policy for the Indian branch of the international charity WaterAid.  “And so we’ve had years of poor funding, poor quality equipment and poor solutions being offered to the poor.”

Jacob added: “India is also a victim of its’ own population growth, with some 1.26 billion citizens now, and counting.  That ‘just wipes out any gains in sanitation, or on any development front.”


663 million of the world’s poorest people have seen no improvement in access to clean drinking water, despite the fact that the world as a whole has seen improved access since 1990.

The people who struggle have no choice but to scavenge around broken pipes and stagnant ponds.  They may walk miles (kilometers) to the nearest spigot for clean water.

Despite this, some experts in development of water issues are hesitant to condemn the efforts already made as negative, saying that the tasks themselves were difficult, and the goals were ambitious.

“It’s important not to lose sign of the fact that things have gotten much better” even if the goals haven’t been met in full, said economist Bjorn Lomborn, founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, economic think tank.  For example, the world aimed to cut child mortality by two-thirds, but managed to reduce it only by half.  “That’s still 6 million children now who don’t die every year.  That’s still a big victory,” Lomborg said.

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