It's something we in the developed world take for granted,
and we should justly celebrate the commode, but it's a serious
business for the two and a half billion people who haven't one.
WORLD TOILET DAY | 2.5 billion do not have access to safe, clean toilets
InterAksyon.comMANILA/WASHINGTON DC – Today is World Toilet Day and 2.5 billion, or one in three of the world’s seven billion people, still do not have access to safe and clean toilet, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said.
The online news portal of TV5
The online news portal of TV5
Of this figure, UNICEF said one billion still defecate in the open.
“Access to a safe, clean toilet should be a basic right for everyone, yet 36 percent of the world’s population still lives without them. This has grave implications on people’s health, wellbeing, dignity, as well as on the environment, and social and economic development,” Unicef pointed out.
According to Unicef, today’s celebration of the World Toilet Day “is a chance for advocacy aimed at policy makers and key stake holders.”
“It’s a chance to spread the world about the sanitation crisis and what can be done to address it,” it said.
“The United Nations is alarmed and concerned about the slow and insufficient progress in improving access to basic sanitation facilities around the world,” Unicef said.
Deaths from diarrhea
But Unicef stressed that having no safe, clean toilets has “consequences.”
Unicef said from 2000 to 2012, the total annual number of deaths from diarrhea among children under 5 had decreased by more than 50 percent, from almost 1.3 million in 2000 to about 0.6 million in 2012.
However, globally, diarrhea still remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality and is responsible for 9 percent of all under-five.
Almost 600,000 children under five die each year – more than 1,600 a day – as a result of diarrhea which is “largely preventable through ”clean toilets, safe water, and good hygiene.”
Globally there are 1.5 billion infections with intestinal nematode infections (worms), affecting one quarter of the world’s population.
Unicef said that school-age children have the highest intestinal worm infection prevalence of any group. An estimated 47 percent of children ages 5-9 in the developing world suffer from a worm infection.
“It is common for a child living in a less developed country to be chronically infected with all three worms - hookworm, whipworm, roundworm. Such children have malnutrition, growth stunting, intellectual retardation, and cognitive and educational deficits,” Unicef said.
But by improving sanitation, the incidence of diarrhea in children below five years old could go down by 36 percent.
Unicef said the transmission of intestinal worms occurs through soil contaminated with feces so this could also be prevented by adequate sanitation and good hygiene practices.
Link between improved toilets and children’s learning
In a related development, according to a new World Bank study, access to improved sanitation can increase children's cognitive skills and low-cost rural sanitation programs can support children's cognitive development.
The policy research paper, entitled "Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills," was released Monday ahead of the first official UN World Toilet Day, which falls on Tuesday.
It studied the effects on childhood cognitive achievement of early life exposure to India's Total Sanitation Campaign, a nationwide government program that encouraged local governments to build and promote use of inexpensive pit latrines.
"Our research showed that six-year-olds who had been exposed to India's sanitation program during their first year of life were more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not," said Dean Spears, lead author of the paper.
"This is important news -- the study suggests that low-cost rural sanitation strategies such as India's Total Sanitation Campaign can support children's cognitive development."