More Have Access to Cell Phones Than Toilets
Wednesday is World Toilet Day, created by the United Nations in 2001 to raise awareness about lack of available sanitation around the world. Currently, 2.5 billion people globally don't have access to improved sanitation facilities – meaning more people have access to mobile phones than to toilets.
Lack of access to sanitation creates a host of health problems, making it easier for diseases to spread, infecting drinking water and contributing to undernourishment and poverty. A child dies every 20 seconds because of poor sanitation, according to the U.N. It can also impact future economic opportunities because lack of sanitation can negatively affect school attendance, especially for girls. In 2013, 1,000 children died every day due to diarrheal disease because of poor sanitation.
The U.N. campaign to end open defecation seeks to eliminate the need for people to defecate outside, frequently with no privacy. According to a joint report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1 billion people are forced to defecate in the open due to lack of sanitation facilities. This causes a range of diseases from cholera and typhoid to polio and hepatitis. It also costs the world $260 billion a year, with 20 of the most affected countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.N. promotes access to safe and clean toilets as a part of its 2015 Millennium Development Goals, a series of benchmarks countries strive to reach to reduce poverty, mortality rates and inequality around the world. Seventy-seven countries have met the goal for sanitation. U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says 1.25 billion women and girls would have better health and safety with the improvement of sanitation facilities.
Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation, said women and girls in particular are negatively impacted by lack of access to sanitation facilities. Gender-based violence and sanitation is the theme of this year's World Toilet Day.
"In many countries, social or cultural norms prevent girls and women from using the same sanitation facilities as male relatives, for instance the father-in-law, or prohibit the use of household facilities on the days women and girls menstruate," de Albuquerque said.
Improved sanitation is also harder to come by in rural areas than urban ones. In 2012, nearly 1.8 billion people living in a rural area lacked access, while 756 million did in urban areas.
Oceania is the only developing region not to see an increase in improved sanitation between 1990 and 2012. Open defecation was highest in Southern Asia at 65 percent in 1990 but fell to 38 percent in 2012, marking the largest drop in any region. Western and Eastern Asia only rates of 3 percent and 1 percent respectively. India is the country with largest population practicing open defecation, with 597 million people lacking access to proper sanitation facilities.