World's Poorest Gain No Access to Sanitation


More than 90 percent of the world population has access to clean water, but 2.4 billion people, most in rural areas, continue to live without toilets, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) reported

The poor's lack of access to sanitation threatens to undermine the health benefits they have gained from access to clean water, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

More than 90 percent of the world population has access to clean water, but 2.4 billion people, most in rural areas, continue to live without toilets, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) reported.

"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," said Maria Neira, head of public health at WHO.

World leaders are due to adopt a set of development objectives - known as the Sustainable Development Goals - in September that include ending poverty, reducing child mortality and tackling climate change, to replace the eight expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Some 2.6 billion people have gained access to clean water and 2.1 billion gained access to toilets since 1990, but large gaps remain, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

In countries like Chad, Mali, Nigeria or Central African Republic less than half the population has access to toilets, the report said.

Access to clean water and adequate sanitation is critical in preventing 16 tropical diseases that cause blindness, disfigurement and death and affect more than 1.4 billion people in 149 countries, the report said.

One billion people worldwide have no choice but to defecate in the open, not into a designated toilet. As a result, 161 million children are threatened with poor health.

The goal on halving the proportion of people without access to clean water was reached ahead of the 2015 deadline, but sanitation goals remain out of reach. The U.N. cites a lack of affordable facilities for the poor, as well as inadequate efforts to change behavior.

"Though we are glad to see overall progress, this data tells us that very little has changed for the world's poorest people when it comes to access to water and sanitation," Girish Menon, deputy chief executive of the global water charity WaterAid, said in a statement.

To eliminate open defecation by 2030, which is the new development deadline, the current rate of progress will have to double, said the U.N.


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Charles Hemba
Indeed a lot of effort has been made in this area and just like the report suggests a lot still has to be done mostly in the area of behaviour change. I also agree that cost is one of the reasons for low latrine uptake in the rural areas, but there are yet many other factors responsible for this slow pace to achieving the sanitation for all goal, some of these factors are mind-blowing but yet cogent reasons.
1. Myths and Customs: Some communities I have worked-in in Nigeria believe that when you defecate in a house (referring to the latrine/toilet building) you become very poor. In other words open defecation is seen in the community as a path to becoming rich. I keep wondering how this perception can ever be changed. Some say they cannot defecate in the same house that they inhabit since it is an abomination to do that.
2. This practice may also not end because in some other communities especially where the female folks are restricted, going to the bush or open land to defecate provides an opportunity for the females to get to meet their men folks who seldom see them as a result of the restriction.
3. There is also the aspect of politicization of the ODF (Open Defecation Free) status of communities as some organisations working in the WASH sector who have adopted the CLTS approach set unrealistic targets to achieve within limited time frames. This ultimately leads to falsification of figures and rash judgements regarding the statuses of communities.
4. Lack of follow up after ODF certification of communities is yet another reason as my work in the rural areas suggests. Some communities where their status had been ODF over time revert back to the OD status when the heat cools down. In other words they opted to make their community ODF just to be included amongst those in similar categories as a mark of prestige.
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