Today is the first United Nations World Toilet Day, which recognizes the importance of sanitation to health and development. A just-released World Bank study says that better sanitation gives children a leg up on learning. "Open defecation lies at the root of many development challenges, as poor sanitation and lack of access to toilets impact public health, education and the environment," says World Bank water and sanitation manager Jaehyang So. New self-contained systems may provide for hope than expensive sewage systems in reaching an estimated 2.5 billion people without access to flush toilets, Chelsea Wald writes in Nautilus.
Improvements in sanitation and hygiene are lagging compared to other Millennium Development Goals, writes Mark Tran. Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan has agreed to help endorse efforts to improve toilets, latrines, hand-washing and sanitation in India, but, worldwide, governments are expected to fall short.
More than 10 million South Africans are at risk of illness and sexual assault because of poor access to toilets, campaigners said last week at a summit on sanitation and waste disposal in Cape Town -- where some 500,000 people lack access to basic sanitation, and as many as 500 people are expected to share one chemical toilet. Even though the government has reduced by half the number of households without sanitation since apartheid, many South Africans still risk muggers and rapists because public toilets are too far from their homes not working properly, or just plain filthy.
Sanitation is a key component to health and poverty targets of the Millennium Development Goals, but remains one of the least discussed development issues, writes Jan Eliasson, Swedish diplomat and former United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs. More than 2.6 billion people worldwide are without access to clean toilets, and a multilateral approach involving governments, civil society groups, international agencies and businesses over the next five years is needed to approach the MDG target, he writes.
Pakistani provincial authorities are championing new programs to build toilets and faucets, and increase public awareness, in the country's rural areas in an attempt to reduce the spread of preventable diseases. Across South Asia sanitation has improved since the 1990s but is still lacking for most people, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization.