Over 2 billion people worldwide lack toilets, says UNICEF report

Open defecation particularly in poor communities is threatening children's lives, UNICEF says

Open defecation particularly in poor communities is threatening children’s lives, UNICEF says. Photo Credit/BBC

Today is World Toilet Day, and a new report by UNICEF indicates 2.4 billion people around the world have no access to toilets and therefore help themselves in the bushes and open areas.

The global children’s watchdog says the phenomenon puts millions of poor children in danger, as it is correlated with malnutrition.

The report “Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” issued Thursday by UNICEF, USAID AND the World Health Organization (WHO) notes “an estimated 159 million children under 5 years old are stunted (short for their age) and another 50 million are wasted (low weight for age).”

“We need to bring concrete and innovative solutions to the problem of where people go to the toilet, otherwise we are failing millions of our poorest and most vulnerable children,” Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes said adding “The proven link with malnutrition is one more thread that reinforces how interconnected our responses to sanitation have to be if we are to succeed.”

According to this new report, lack of toilets and open defecation contribute to “the incidence of diarrhoea and to the spread of intestinal parasites, which in turn cause malnutrition.”

As a solution to this serious problem, UNICEF recommends its own Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, the organisation says the mechanism which allows local communities to look for soluttions within themselves, has led to the construction of latrines and improved lifestyle through good feeding practices.

UNICEF cites the three African countries; Mali, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in which CLTS has borne results.

Lack of toilets is big issue across East Africa; it is this very problem that contributed to Tanzania’s failure to meet The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on water and sanitation.

It is estimated that only one in three families (34 per cent) in Tanzania has access to toilets or latrines with wide disparities between regions, and between urban and rural areas.

“We need innovative solutions to an old problem that has huge, negative consequences for children. Without innovation, children will continue to suffer from preventable diseases including cholera,” Dr. Jama Gulaid, UNICEF Tanzania Representative said.