Africa: Why Toilets Matter – The Transformational Benefits of Ending Outdoor Defecation

United Nations — Ending the practice of defecating inside the open, rather than in a toilet, will have “transformational benefits” for some of the earth’s most vulnerable people, says the UN’s partner sanitation body, the WSSCC (Water Supply and also also also Sanitation Collaborative Council).

Ahead of World Toilet Day, which is actually marked annually on 19 November, WSSCC’s acting Executive Director, Sue Coates, has been speaking to UN News about how to end open defecation.

What is actually open defecation and also also also where is actually the idea mostly practiced?

Open defecation is actually when people defecate inside the open – for example, in fields, forests, bushes, lakes and also also also rivers – rather than using a toilet. Globally, the practice is actually decreasing steadily, however its elimination by 2030, one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires a substantial acceleration in toilet use particularly in Central and also also also Southern Asia, Eastern and also also also Southeast Asia and also also also Sub-Saharan Africa.

Poor sanitation and also also also hygiene practices (for example, not handwashing with soap after defecation and also also also before eating) contribute to over 800,000 deaths coming from diarrhoea annually, according to the earth Health Organization (WHO)

UN agencies report that will of the 673 million people practicing open defecation, 91 per cent live in rural areas. An increase in population in countries including Nigeria, Tanzania, Madagascar and also also also Niger, although also in some Oceania states, is actually leading to localized growth in open defecation.

Why is actually open defecation such a serious problem?

Open defecation is actually an affront to the dignity, health and also also also well-being, especially of girls and also also also women. For example, hundreds of millions of girls and also also also women around the earth lack privacy when they are menstruating. Open defecation also risks exposing them to increased sexual exploitation and also also also personal safety and also also also is actually a risk to public health.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria and also also also one thousand parasite cysts. Poor sanitation and also also also hygiene practices (for example, not handwashing with soap after defecation and also also also before eating) contribute to over 800,000 deaths coming from diarrhoea annually, according to the earth Health Organization (WHO): that will’s more people than who die coming from malaria.

Why has the idea been so difficult to stop the idea?

Open defecation has been practiced for centuries; the idea is actually an ingrained cultural norm in some societies. Stopping the idea requires a sustained shift inside the behaviour of whole communities in order that will a brand-new norm, toilet use by all, is actually created and also also also accepted. Ending open defecation requires an ongoing investment inside the construction, maintenance and also also also use of latrines, and also also also various other basic services.

How are people’s lives enhanced once they have a toilet to use?

On a day-to-day basis, the ability to use a toilet – at home and also also also work, and also also also in public places such as schools, health centres and also also also markets – is actually a basic human right. Sanitation has transformational benefits supporting aspects of quality of life, equity and also also also dignity for all people.

To what extent is actually sanitation a central part of overall development?

A lack of at least basic sanitation and also also also hygiene services, including a lack of informed choice about menstrual health and also also also hygiene, is actually a violation of the human rights to water and also also also sanitation, as well as the rights to health, work, adequate standard of living, non-discrimination, human dignity, protection, information, and also also also participation.

WHO and also also also UNICEF report that will in 2016, 21 per cent of healthcare facilities globally had no sanitation service, directly impacting more than 1.5 billion people, and also also also over 620 million children worldwide lacked basic sanitation services at their school.

WHO estimates that will every $1 invested in water and also also also toilets returns an average of US $4 in saved medical costs, averted deaths and also also also increased productivity. Hygiene promotion is actually also ranked among the most cost-effective public health interventions. Conversely, a lack of sanitation holds back economic growth.

How is actually the UN contributing to ending open defecation?

Member States and also also also UN agencies are committed to ending open defecation and also also also have urged the provision of financial resources, capacity-building and also also also technology transfer to help developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and also also also affordable drinking water and also also also sanitation for all.