Lack of Toilets Among Leading Causes of Child Deaths Globally
NEW YORK (November 19, 2013) – On World Toilet Day -- declared an official United Nations Day by a UN General Assembly resolution in 2013 -- UNICEF reinforces the critical role communities play in bridging the gap to safe sanitation tools and practices globally. More than one-third of the world’s population does not have access to toilets, which has devastating consequences on the health and development of children.
Since 1990, nearly 1.9 billion people gained access to improved sanitation. However, in 2011, there were approximately 2.5 billion people (36 percent of the population) without access.
The Millennium Development Goal target is to reduce the proportion of the global population without access to improved sanitation, from 51 percent in 1990 to 25 percent by 2015
“Access to toilets remains the unmentionable, shameful secret for even some very prosperous countries,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs. “But its invisibility doesn’t make it harmless – in fact, it is quite the reverse. Lack of access to toilets is quite literally killing children, making adults sick, and slowing progress – day after day after day.”
According to figures released by UNICEF earlier this year, lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is a leading cause of deaths from diarrhea in children under five, accounting for approximately 1,400 children dying each day.
UNICEF has spearheaded a social change movement that has led more than 25 million people to end the practice of open defecation and now use toilets. The Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) program encourages communities to take the lead and identify their own measures to end open defecation. More than 50 countries have implemented CATS and many governments have mainstreamed a similar approach into their national policy.
Despite this success, Wijesekera said countries, communities and individuals still need to urgently bring the taboo subject of toilets and open defecation from the shadows, discuss it frankly, and agree to tackle the problem.
As more governments and communities apply the method to eliminate open defecation and scale up access to toilets, many more people stand to benefit, especially from a reduction in WASH- related diseases.
UNICEF’s ongoing global “No access” campaign at www.unicef.org/toilets4all is encouraging people globally to understand the dangers of open defecation and the problems associated with lack of access to improved sanitation.
In India, where in 2011 approximately 65 percent of the population did not have access to improved sanitation, and more than 620 million people defecated in the open, UNICEF India is rolling out Poo2loo, an online campaign addressing the issue of open defecation in the country. Individuals can take the pledge for a ‘poo free country’ at www.poo2loo.com; join on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/poo2loo and follow the campaign updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/poo2loo.
In Mali, on World Toilet Day, UNICEF is launching a Sanitation Marketing Project in partnership with PSI-Mali and the National Directorate of Sanitation.
In Eritrea, there will be celebrations of certifications of Open Defecation Free communities throughout the country.
“Every action which spurs people to change their way of dealing with defecation brings us closer towards the goal of sanitation for all,” said Wijesekera. “It is not easy, but it is certainly doable, and moreover, it is absolutely indispensable if we are expecting to live healthy lives in the21st century.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.
For additional information, please contact:
Andrea Sioris, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9136, [email protected]
Marci Greenberg, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212-922-2464, [email protected]