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One-Third of the World People Lack Proper Toilets
People

One-Third of the World People Lack Proper Toilets

Toilets are taken for granted in the industrialized West, but still are a luxury for a third of the world’s people who have no access to them, says a report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
Those who make do without toilets continue to pollute water sources and jeopardize public health and safety for millions worldwide. That contributes to malnutrition and childhood stunting, impairing 161 million children both physically and mentally every year.
“Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases,” WHO’s public health department director, Dr. Maria Neira, said in a statement, reports AP.
The joint report released Tuesday by UN agencies evaluates progress on global targets set in 2000 for giving everyone access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, along with other goals in areas such as poverty, hunger, disease and inequality. With those benchmarks expiring this year, the United Nations is leading efforts to come up with a new set of “sustainable development goals” that are expected to focus on how some $2.5 trillion in development funds will be spent through 2030.
Past efforts to improve water and sanitation have seen some success, with 2.1 billion people gaining access to better sanitation facilities since 1990. Yet, another 2.4 billion people have seen no improvement, including 946 million people still relieving themselves outdoors - the vast majority among the rural poor.
India is by far the worst culprit, with more than 640 million people defecating in the open, and not necessarily due to a lack of facilities. Many men who have installed toilets at home still prefer going outdoors as they survey their farmlands or seek a few minutes of quiet.
While successive Indian governments have pledged to install toilets in every home, little has been done to educate people about the dangers of unsanitary practices. Meanwhile, diarrheal diseases kill 700,000 children every year, most of which could have been prevented with better sanitation. India still needs to build some 100 million toilets to provide everyone access, but experts say the country also needs to invest more in campaigns to change behaviors. Instead, the government recently slashed its sanitation budget in half.
“There is a kind of a feeling among politicians that, if we ignore the problem it will go away,” said Nitya Jacob, who leads policy for the Indian branch of the international charity WaterAid. “And so we’ve had years of poor funding, poor quality equipment and poor solutions being offered to the poor.”
India is also a victim of its own population growth, with some 1.26 billion citizens now and counting. That “just wipes out any gains in sanitation, or on any development front,” Jacob said.

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