Sanitation and Poverty
Two and a half billion people – over a third of the entire world’s population – have no access to adequate sanitation facilities, which leads to the rapid spread of disease and heightened child mortality rates. Most commonly, poor sanitation practices lead to diarrhea: little more than an annoying byproduct of bad hygiene practices for first-world residents, it is often fatal in developing countries. In fact, it is estimated that 5,000 children die daily from complications related to the ailment. Consequently, one person dies every minute due to the lack of basic sanitation.

Why is the lack of well-formulated means of sanitation such a large problem in modern times, when technology has reached such an advanced stage? One reason is the negative stigma associated with it: the discussion of toilets simply feels dirty or inappropriate and is not as popular nor does it appear at first glance as urgent as, for example, the issue of access to drinking water. However, the two are related and equally pressing; disease control is an impossible goal without proper sanitation adjustments. In many places around the third world, toilet stalls are completely nonexistent. Essentially, this means that people are forced to defecate in public, populated areas, leaving waste behind which will remain on the ground spreading disease. Just a gram of human feces may contain as much as ten million viruses and a hundred parasite eggs.

Besides the obvious health benefits, according to the World Health Organization (WHO,) improved sanitation in developing countries would provide $9 economic benefit per $1 spent. The year of 2008 was dubbed by WHO as the International Year of Sanitation. Through various conferences and seminars, five key principles of sanitation were determined: 1. Sanitation is vital for human health. 2. It generates economic benefits. 3. It contributes to dignity and social development. 4. It helps the environment, and most importantly. 5. It IS achievable. South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are two regions most affected by poor sanitation practices. Coincidentally, they are also the two areas with the highest death rates from various diseases. It is especially prevalent in rural areas, where open defecation is six times more likely and use of unimproved sanitation is four times higher than in urban areas. Being one of the 2015 Millennium Goals, improved sanitation should not be taken for granted. To heighten the quality of sanitation is to improve the quality of life as well as economic efficiency for millions of individuals worldwide. In this day and age, no one should have to defecate publicly; not only for reasons of dignity and civility, but also due to personal awareness and dedication towards reducing of the spread of deadly disease.

– Natalia Isaeva


Sources: The Global Poverty Project, World Health Organization: International Year of Sanitation, UNICEF: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation