~Written by Theresa Majeski (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @theresamajeski)
There are over seven billion people on the planet and 2.4 billion of them do not have access to proper sanitation. Almost one billion people still defecate in the open. The risk of disease and malnutrition increases with poor sanitation, especially for women and children. This year’s World Toilet Day on November 19 highlights the impact of poor sanitation on malnutrition.
Every day, over 1,000 children die from preventable water and sanitation related diarrheal diseases. Half of all cases of under-nutrition associated with diarrheal or intestinal worm infections are directly due to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. Stunting and wasting, which cause irreversible physical and cognitive damage, have been linked to poor (water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions. In 2014, almost 1 in 4 children under five years of age suffered from stunting globally. 58% of all cases of diarrheal disease are directly related to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Access to proper sanitation, hygiene, and potable water is so important that it was included in the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Since 1990 an additional 2.1 billion people have started using basic toilets, and today around 68% of people have access to proper sanitation. However, the final MDGs Assessment report shows that the world has fallen short of the MDG goal by 700 million people. This means that there is still work to be done, which is why access to sanitation and clean water is Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
There are many innovations occurring in the WASH area. One example is a project by Give Water that promotes child health by developing child-sized latrines and teaching children about proper sanitation and hygiene practices in school. This ensures that proper WASH practices start from a young age. The WASH Impact Network website provides a lot of information about additional innovative WASH projects.
Access to proper sanitation and clean water is a human right. While progress is being made towards this goal, there is still work to be done. World Toilet Day highlights the continued effort to provide proper sanitation facilities to every person on the planet.