The Devastating Impact of Unimproved Sanitation

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Posted on 11/26/2013
Unimproved sanitation is a serious problem in many developing nations.
Unimproved sanitation is a serious problem in many developing nations.

Food insecurity and a lack of access to health care are serious problems in many countries, but unimproved sanitation is also an urgent issue. Children in need and their families who don't have access to safe, clean and private toilets — an estimated 2.5 billion people — are more susceptible to communicable diseases, and children under the age of 5 have much higher mortality rates. Although progress has been made in improving sanitation in many developing nations, data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicates more must be done to tackle the impact of unimproved sanitation around the world.

Measuring Progress

According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Project, 870 million people living in developing countries in 2011 (except for India and China) have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, but there is also a 12 percent increase of population using unimproved facilities in these countries for the same 21-year period.

Overall, people in rural areas have much less access to clean toilets than those in urban regions. As a result of this widespread problem, diarrheal diseases represent the second most common cause of death of young children in developing countries, resulting in one death every 20 seconds.

Urgent Needs

ChildFund works in some of the world's poorest countries to provide sanitary bathroom facilities to communities in need, including Bolivia. We have helped install or repair dilapidated bathrooms to give schoolchildren access to clean restrooms.

"Children are so happy about the new bathrooms that they just don't want to come out from there," says a teacher in Sapahaqui, a small rural town in western Bolivia. "I can already notice that hand washing and new bathrooms are affecting children's health because fewer and fewer of them catch cold and have fleas."

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