The health benefits of improved sanitation are immense, yet, more than 4.2 billion people in the world still live without safely managed sanitation facilities like toilets or latrines – which is more than half the global population. World Toilet Day, marked on 19th November each year, aims to tackle the global sanitation crisis and ensure that no one is left behind without proper sanitation.
Data shows that as many as 673 million people still practice open defecation worldwide – defecating into places such as open street gutters, behind bushes or into open water bodies. Open defecation has been identified as a major health hazard and hurdle in infection control.
Poor sanitation is estimated to cause around 4,32,000 diarrhoeal deaths every year. It is also a major factor contributing to diseases such as intestinal worms and trachoma. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), poor sanitation also results in malnutrition.
BENEFITS OF IMPROVED SANITATION
The benefits of improved sanitation extend well beyond reducing the risk of diarrhoea and other sanitation-related diseases. Take a look at how improved sanitation and hygiene such as access to a clean toilet can benefit health and many more.
- Improving sanitation and hygiene will reduce the spread of intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, which are neglected tropical diseases that affect millions of people. Poor sanitation is also linked to an increased risk of the transmission of diseases, including ranging from cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid to polio.
- Unsanitary living conditions can also exacerbate stunting in children. Hence, proper sanitation facilities will help reduce the severity and impact of malnutrition.
- It will also promote the dignity and boost safety, particularly among women and girls, who are especially affected by inadequate sanitation mainly due to gender-related differences (cultural and social factors) as well as sex-related differences (physiological factors).
- The provision of separate sanitary facilities for girls will also promote their school attendance, said WHO.
- Improved sanitation also facilitates the potential recovery of water, renewable energy and nutrients from faecal waste. A WHO study in 2012 suggested that improved sanitation will also lower health costs, boost productivity, contribute to fewer premature deaths. Overall, proper sanitation, along with safe water and good hygiene, are fundamental to not just good health but social and economic development as well.