Biggest Global Issues
Hundreds of millions of people around the world experience insufficient living conditions due to environmental factors, displacement, disease, poverty or some combination of the four. Here is a list of the biggest global issues that plague humankind.

The Biggest Global Issues Facing Mankind

1. Food and Malnutrition

  • Food and nutrition are essential for just about every life form on the planet, especially humankind. Although countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States produce vast amounts of food for the world, about one in nine people will not eat enough food today. Malnourishment leads to the inability of about 795 million people to lead active and healthy lives around the globe.

  • Malnutrition leads to poor health and can stunt development in education and employment. According to The Food Aid Foundation, 66 million school-aged children will go to school hungry today. Consistent hunger in schools is linked to a lack of concentration.

  • World hunger has decreased by about 219 million people within the past two decades. It is through the innovative and ambitious work of organizations like the World Food Programme, in partnership with governments and communities, that the world can fill empty stomachs and provide communities with the resources to fill their own stomachs without aid, overtime.

  • The World Food Programme provides the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to counter the effects of consistent hunger in schools. One model of the  Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Kenya provides school meals to over 600 million schoolchildren. The organization purchases the meals from local farmers which helps boost Kenya’s agriculture-dependent economy. Constant meals in school serve as an incentive for poor families to send their children to school every day and enhance the quality of children’s education by reducing hunger.

2. Access to Clean Water

  • Water covers about 70 percent of planet Earth. Inadequate water supply, water supply access and lack of sanitation kill millions of people annually. Used for drinking and hygiene practices, lack of water sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality around the world.

  • Two days of the year educate the world about one of the biggest global issues facing humankind: the global water crisis. World Water Day and World Toilet Day are reminders that 700 million people around the globe could be facing displacement due to decreased access to fresh water by 2030. Severe droughts are a major reason for displacement. When there is no more water for drinking or for crops and livestock, people must leave their homes in search of a place where there is an adequate supply of water.

  • Within the past two decades, the percentage of countries without basic sanitation services decreased by 17 percent. Forty countries are on track to receive universal basic sanitation services by the year 2030. In the meantime, 88 countries are progressing too slowly in their sanitation advancements and 24 countries are decreasing in their advances toward universal sanitation coverage.

  • The Water Project is committed to providing safe water to Africa. It builds wells and dams to provide access to safe water. The project also delivers improved technology for more sanitary toilets that keep flies away. The Water Project provides and monitors 157 water projects in Sierra Leone including wells, dams and sanitary toilets. The Water Project builds these projects in schools and communities in the Port Loko region of Sierra Leone, serving some 7,000 Sierra Leoneans. The Water Project’s save water initiative impacts over 40,000 people on the continent of Africa.

3. Refugee Crisis

  • The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind today. Refugees are seeking asylum from persecution, conflict and violence. A grand total of 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Some 54 percent of those displaced are children.

  • Developing countries host a third of the world’s refugees. Many refugees reside in the neighboring countries of those they left behind. Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon lead the world in hosting refugees.

  • Asylum seekers from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan continuously flee ongoing persecution, conflict and violence in their home countries. More recently, four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 460 thousand of whom are seeking asylum in Spain, Central America and North America.

  • Venezuelans are fleeing dire political unrest and hyperinflation. Shortages in food, water, electricity and medicine also afflict the country. The Red Cross now provides at least $60 million worth of aid to Venezuela, reaching at least 650,000 Venezuelans. The World Vision Organization delivers aid to Venezuelan refugees in Venezuela’s neighboring countries. For example, in Colombia, World Vision provides economic empowerment, education, food and health essentials to some 40,000 refugees.

4. AIDS Epidemic

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a longstanding global issue. With at least 36.9 million AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections around the world, the disease is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Since 2004, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by over half. In 2004, almost two million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared to 940,000 in 2017.

  • Organizations like the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS, Kaiser Family Foundation and PEPFAR are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. These organizations help to ensure that infected people have access to treatment and the opportunity to live healthy lives. Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are 14 times more likely to contract HIV than boys. The DREAM initiative by PEPFAR and partners prioritizes the safety of AGYW against new HIV infections. PEPFAR is reaching at least 144,000 AGYW in Kenya, one country where HIV infections are most prevalent.

  • Although there is currently no cure, UNAIDS has a Sustainable Development Goal of bringing the number of new HIV infections down to zero by the year 2030. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts research and analyzes data regarding U.S. AIDS policy and funding, both domestic and globally. It serves as a source of information about AIDS and other global health issues for U.S. policymakers and the media.

5. Eradicating Poverty

  • Poverty is the lack of income necessary to access basic everyday needs and/or living below a specific country’s standard of living. Living in poverty can result in malnutrition,  poor health, fewer opportunities for education and increased illness. With an estimated 783 million people living in poverty, eradicating poverty is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind.

  • Malnutrition, contaminated water, the refugee crisis and the AIDS epidemic all contain some aspects of poverty. Organizations like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on sustainable development strategies to alleviate global poverty. The number of people living in poverty has decreased by half, thanks to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have lifted at least one billion people out of extreme poverty within the last two decades.

  • The Gates Foundation is proving that poverty can be ameliorated through Agricultural Transformation. Increasing a country’s food production can counter malnutrition and boost the country’s economy by increasing farmer’s crop productivity. Poverty in Ethiopia has decreased by at least 45 percent since the Gates Foundation first started investing in agricultural development there in 2006. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is witnessing an overall increase in its economy.

With the help of innovative organizations partnered with governments, the world is implementing practical techniques to help eliminate hunger, water scarcity, AIDS/HIV and poverty from the list of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Eliminating these problems will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world, including refugees and internally displaced people.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

The name might result in a few giggles, but the importance behind the U.N.’s World Toilet Day is no laughing matter.

The annual day of action was established in order to bring awareness to sanitation issues around the world. It is estimated that 2.4 billion people — or approximately one out of every three people in the world — still do not have access to adequate sanitation.

Furthermore, around 1 billion people are forced to practice open defecation, due to a widespread lack of toilets and proper sanitation in several developing countries.

Poor sanitation and open defecation pose obvious and significant health risks, spreading diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and dysentery. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 children under the age of five die every day due to diarrhea and chronic undernutrition attributed to poor sanitation and hygiene practices where they live.

The lack of public toilets is also linked to violence against women, as women are more at risk of sexual assault when they must venture out alone into secluded places after dark to relieve themselves.

Sanitation is often termed a “silent crisis” as it has evaded the extent of media coverage and awareness devoted toward other key development issues. World Toilet Day seeks to address this lack of attention and was established with the exact purpose of dispelling the taboos, disgust and discomfort associated with discussing and addressing global sanitation issues.

World Toilet Day was initially established by the World Toilet Organization, a group whose main mission is “raising a stink for sanitation” on the world stage. The Organization was founded in 2001 and held its first annual World Toilet Summit on Nov. 19 of that year.UN_World_Toilet_Day

Every year thereafter, the organization has been steadily working to disseminate information and create awareness for sanitation as a topic of conversation on the global development agenda. Jack Sim, a retired Singaporean businessman and founder of the World Toilet Organization, has been hailed for his efforts through the organization to help dispel the taboos associated with openly talking about toilets, sanitation and human waste.

In recognition of the need to emphasize global sanitation issues, the U.N. General Assembly passed the “Sanitation for All” resolution in 2013 designating Nov. 19 to be the official U.N. World Toilet Day. UN-Water has taken the lead in working with governments and stakeholders to expand World Toilet Day in scope and recognition.

The message behind World Toilet Day has found widespread support across the globe, especially within countries currently struggling with serious sanitation issues.

India is one such country, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched a campaign tackling sanitation issues. Accordingly, India has set an ambitious target to build enough toilets for more than 600 million people by 2019.

In the past, World Toilet Day has had a different focus every year. This year, the theme is “Sanitation and Nutrition,” particularly emphasizing the importance of toilets, clean water and proper hygiene in supporting nutrition and health.

The theme for 2014 was “Equality and Dignity” and in 2012 it was “I Give a Shit, Do You?” Every year, several communities around the world take part in World Toilet Day, hosting awareness and fundraising events in line with the theme, such as the “Urgent Run” marathon-style event.

World Toilet Day is certainly one of the more provocative commemorative days, and it has been an all-around success in using humor and light-heartedness to reframe how we discuss toilets and sanitation issues that still cause trouble for billions.

As the World Toilet Organization notes, “[Today] is the day to stand up (or sit down or squat if you prefer) to do something about it.”

Jace White

Sources: The Guardian, Sustainable Sanitation AllianceUN 1, UN 2, UN 3, UN 4Voice of America, World Health Organization, World Toilet Organization 1, World Toilet Organization 2
Photo: Wikimedia, Flickr

In today’s age of technology developments and exciting advances, there is still a population of up to 1.3 billion people living without access to electricity. The IEA, or International Energy Agency, shows that “this is the equivalent to 18 percent of the global population and 22 percent of those living in developing countries.”

While this is true, though, the world recognizes that energy is essential to economic development. UN studies have stated, “Energy provides mobility, heat, and light; it is the fuel that drives the global economy. But the production and use of coal, oil, and gas cause air pollution and climate change, harming public health and the environment.”

In response, studies have been made to find the most cost-efficient way to provide eco-friendly energy sources. The new power source that is currently being tested comes in the form of human waste.

To show the true potential of the source, the United Nations University created a study to find the value of human waste in terms of energy.

The study showed that “biogas from human waste, safely obtained under controlled circumstances using innovative technologies, is a potential fuel source great enough, in theory, to generate electricity for up to 138 million households – the number of households in Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia combined.”

With that number in mind, the UNU’s Institute in Canada estimated “that biogas potentially available from human waste worldwide would have a value of up to US$ 9.5 billion in natural gas equivalent.”

The waste would be dried and charred, producing a sludge-like substance similar to coal but with the added bonus of being eco-friendly.

With all of these facts, however, the concept is still a major taboo in people’s eyes. To combat this, experts have shown that the world already reuses water and nutrients from wastewater and continue to fight for the new energy source potential.

With World Toilet Day on Nov. 19 being around the corner, the U.N. hopes to combat the stigma. UNU-INWEH Director Zafar Adeel stated that it will hopefully “promote new thinking and to continue puncturing the taboos in many places that inhibit discussion and perpetuate the disgrace and tragedy of inadequate human waste management in many developing world areas. This report contributes to that goal.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: World Energy Outlook, UN Foundation, UNU
Photo: Pixabay

The loo, can, John, privy, water closet or bathroom – no matter what it is called, the toilet is a universally valued sanitation need.  That said, this year marked the first official celebration of World Toilet Day. While the day has been informally recognized by sanitation advocacy groups for 13 years, the United Nations officially declared November 19 World Toilet Day this year.

“To have it inscribed as a U.N. official day,” says World Toilet Organization founder Jack Sim, “means we now have the … legitimacy to engage at country and local levels to generate awareness down to where it matters most. We’ve finally broken the taboo on sanitation.”

Lack of proper sanitation poses a threat to many developing nations around the world. In fact, more than 2.5 billion people lack proper sanitation, states Devex, and are at an increased risk for waterborne illnesses. Five years ago in Harare, Zimbabwe, more than 400,000 were killed and 100,000 sickened by cholera, states the Huffington Post.

The densely populated city still faces health and sanitation risks today.  A new report titled “Troubled Water: Burst Pipes, Contaminated Wells, and Open Defecation in Zimbabwe’s Capital” captures the dangerous living conditions of many of the nation’s citizens.  The lack of proper filtration, sanitation and clean water violate fundamental human rights, the report claims.

Zimbabwe has not always lacked proper sanitation systems, however.  Until the 1980s the country had a functioning sewage system, but governmental neglect and corruption has allowed the system to deteriorate and cause public hazards.

“The government’s inability to maintain the water system and its practice of disconnecting those unable to pay,” Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Tiseke Kasambala says,” forces people to drink water from contaminated taps or from unprotected wells.” Sewage lines the streets of many communities where inhabitants also lack clean water for bathing and drinking.

The situation is not much better in Haiti and according to Devex, only one-third of the Caribbean nation has access to toilets. More than 680,00 people have contracted cholera, with nearly 8,400 dying from the disease in the last three years. Researchers, however, are using defecation as an opportunity to develop sustainable energy practices.

Professors from the University of Maryland and Biobolsa of Mexico have designed a technology that utilizes anaerobic digesters to break down organic matter and transform it into methane.  The methane biogas can then be used to generate electricity and heat homes.

The researchers and technicians have high hopes for the project. “We hope this project can be used to bring together these WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] communities through the sharing of our rigorous evaluation data, survey results and workshop materials,” University of Maryland’s Stephanie Lansing said, “so the sanitation model implemented here in Haiti can be replicated throughout the development community.”

Though improper sanitation and hygiene practices threaten many developing nations, work is underway to flush these public health hazards down the drain and transform them into sustainable development opportunities.

– Mallory Thayer

Sources: Devex: Learning to love the loo, The Huffington Post, Devex: Haiti
Photo: New Times

The first official UN World Toilet Day was on November 19. This day is meant to raise awareness of the billions of people who lack access to sanitation and toilets.

Why so much importance on sanitation?

Currently, more than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets. This breaks down to one in every three people in the world. Additionally, one billion people practice open defecation- going outside without using a toilet. This lack of resources and education results in harm to infants and stunts the growth of young bodies and minds.

In India for instance, where open defecation is widely practiced, children are significantly shorter than children in Africa, who are much poorer.

According to the World Bank, open defecation practices threaten the human capital of developing countries. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Therefore, a sanitation program in India was introduced. The results of the program demonstrate sanitation services support cognitive functioning in children. Specifically, six-year-olds who had been exposed to the program during their first year of life were more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not.

Lack to access of sanitation and toilets also results in diarrheal diseases, which are currently the second most common cause of death in young children in developing countries.

Preventable diarrheal diseases kill more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Furthermore, lack of sanitation and toilets also threatens the welfare of women and girls. Without access to private and safe toilets, girls stay home during menstruation, causing them to fall behind in school and at times drop out altogether.  Additionally, women are most vulnerable to being sexually assaulted when they go to the restroom. Without access to a nearby private toilet, women’s vulnerability is only increased when they go outdoors or in a public space, often late at night and away from people.

Due to the unglamorous nature of the subject matter, toilets tend to take the back seat when it comes to awareness and fundraising. “We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development priority,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.

World Toilet Day aims to change both behavior and policy on issues ranging from enhancing water management to ending open-air defecation.

Caressa Kruth
Sources: Trust, CNN, UN
Photo English Forum


The United Nations has declared November 19th as World Toilet Day. November 19th has been celebrated as Toilet Day by the World Toilet Organization since 2001. By declaring this day World Toilet Day, the UN is bringing awareness to the problems of sanitation. The UN urged countries to change behavior and policy on sanitation issues ranging from water management to ending open-air defecation.

Currently 2.5 billion people do not have access to toilets or latrines. In addition 1.1 billion people still defecate in the open, which is extremely harmful to the public. In countries with high rates of open defecation they have high rates of under-five child deaths, high levels of malnutrition and poverty, and large wealth disparities

“Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. “Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrheal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.”

Sanitation is important for many reasons. It can reduce the risk of violence against women since, a toilet provides privacy. Sanitation can yield huge economic benefits considering it would be a preventative measure against many diseases. Sanitation improves the educational prospects of poor people and increases girls’ attendance at school, due to improved health and privacy. Sanitation also prevents environmental pollution, which has become a problem in many developing nations.

The UN expected laughter and jokes after declaring World Toilet Day. “Their laughter is welcome, especially if they recognize the prevailing and unhealthy taboo that prevents an open and serious discussion of the problems of sanitation and toilets globally,” said Mark Neo, an envoy from Singapore who backed the declaration.

Ways to raise awareness about proper sanitation and water management are to simply put the word out there. Post on social media websites with certain statistics about sanitation. It can be especially influential if you get the word out on World Toilet Day.

Catherine Ulrich

Sources: UN News, NY Daily News

Matt Damon Toilet Strike

Dear Toilet,

It’s not you. It’s us.


Matt Damon

Matt Damon broke up with his toilet…well at least until everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The Oscar-winning actor and co-founder of announced his toilet strike in a comedic video.

The video is a staged press conference with prominent comedians. It highlights society’s ignorance of the world water crisis and the underappreciation of toilets. 780 million people lack access to clean water.

Damon mentions how the toilet has saved more lives than any other invention, yet 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets or basic sanitation.  More people own cell phones than toilets. The “Matt Damon Toilet Strike” is designed to be less about him and more about people who lack the luxury of clean sanitation.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson released a statement that the world water crisis is something people “don’t like to talk about.” The United Nations aims to double the number of people with toilets by 2015.

The organization’s long-term plan is to “eliminate the practice of open defecation” by 2025.  This practice makes unsanitary water the number one killer of people worldwide.  In fact, children under the age of five are most likely to die from diarrhea-related diseases. traded the traditional public service announcement model in hopes of creating a viral frenzy.

“If Sarah Silverman and I can generate millions of views on YouTube for something ridiculous, then we should be able to do better for one of the most important and solvable issues of our time,” Damon said.

The nonprofit has “been toying with [the idea of comedic videos] for a couple of years.”  Damon and the rest of believe viral videos can “generate new levels of awareness and participation in the cause.”

The announcement video is the first of 12 videos. The strike campaign’s other videos include: Damon breaking up with his toilet, other celebrities joining the strike, and John Elerick fighting to outdo Damon.  The video was filmed for free at YouTube’s L.A. studios as YouTube works to educate nonprofits about best practices for video campaigns.

Jessica Mason, YouTube spokeswoman, understands that views should not be the main concern for non-profits. “We want to help nonprofits raise awareness and turn that awareness into action.” will continue using social media to further awarness.  The website features extensive social media integration.  It asks visitors to “lend” their social media accounts and allow to publish automatically until World Toilet Day on November 9, 2013.

For more information, visit or tweet questions with #strikewithme.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Strike With Me