2.4 billion people still don’t have toilets in 2015, concludes a report conducted by the WHO and UNICEF.
We live in a world of extremes. And the fact that this does not come as a shock to anybody anymore is actually part of the reason why the situation has reached the proportions it has today.
In this modern high-tech world we do not have time to think about such things as proper toilets anymore. We all have them, at home and pretty much anywhere we go and the only thing we worry about nowadays is how to keep what happens in a bathroom as private as possible.
The only time we might realize how important a toilet is for us is when we do not have access to it. This might happen in the middle of the city and it eventually gets solved, because most facilities are equipped with toilets.
Or it might happen when we plan a hiking trip in the mountains or some other wild setting, untouched by man. And a few hours in, it becomes pretty clear just how important toilets are to our day to day life, because it is neither easy, nor pleasant, nor safe to go about your business in nature.
But unfortunately, in 2015, when we have several probes and spaceships discovering the mysteries of the galaxy and marvelous inventions such as the self driving car, there are still billions of people who do not have access to a toilet and who do not have the luxury of drinking clean water.
This leads to a massive spread of disease, because there are numerous communicable diseases out there that are transmitted through the contamination of food and water with fecal matter. These include bacterial diseases, viral diseases and parasitic diseases, that manifest with a wide range of symptoms and that cause immense damage to those who get sick.
But the most common symptom of all of these diseases is diarrhea, which can have devastating effects in a poorly developed community, because the people have no means of treating it. And while diarrhea is something that we regard as one of the least important medical issues in the first world, what we seem to forget is that we have the means to make it so unimportant, because we can treat it.
The situation is completely different in undeveloped countries, because the people who get diarrhea do not have access to antibiotics and intravenous fluids. And even if this might come as a surprise to the first world, people die from diarrhea every single day in the third world, due to exacerbated dehydration and malnutrition.
According to the latest report conducted on the worldwide state of availability to clean water and sanitation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, there are still 2.4 billion people who do not have access to sanitation at the moment.
One in three people in the world do not have a toilet or a latrine to urinate and defecate in at the moment. This means that they will go in the forests, behind bushes, near streams and rivers or even in the middle of the filed if need calls for it, because they have no other alternative at the moment.
While 91% of the entire population now has access to a clean source of water, only 68% have access to sanitation. This happened because clean water seems like a more ardent necessity and so numerous campaigns and programs have been focusing on bettering it for the last decades. Sanitation however had to wait a while a longer before it got the world’s attention.
Having access to clean drinking water is undoubtedly a crucial aspect of an evolved society. But it needs to be paired with access to proper sanitation in order to achieve sizable effects in combating communicable diseases. This happens because a person who practices open defecation contaminates the environment and himself at the same time.
This person will contaminate at least his hands and feet and then it will contaminate his clean water source, his food and his home through contact. Furthermore, he will contaminate those who share his water, his food and home as well. This is why it is crucial that these two issues be attributed the same importance.
However, the WHO report pointed out that there is progress on the matter, as 2.1 billion people have been provided with access to sanitation through programs from the last 25 years. Unfortunately, it is crucial that it does not take us another 25 years to put a end to open defecation.
The starting point of repairing this issue of devastating proportions is creating awareness campaigns, so that people understand the threat that open defecation poses. This will ensure that more people get involved in programs that fight open defecation and that more people donate money to foundations that organize these programs.
Back in 2013, British journalist Rose George has created a marvelous campaign called “Let’s talk crap. Seriously”. Her campaign has enabled people to understand the risks associated with a practice that might seem slightly disgusting, but harmless at first glance. She has pointed out that there is a very solid reason that has led the British Medical Journal to name the toilet the most valuable medical advance of the last 200 years.
More public figures need to take example from her amazing awareness campaign and help make people understand the proportions of this intricate matter, that extend far beyond the barrier of health and disease and influence crucial aspects of society and acceptable conduct. This is the only way that we may put an end to open defecation as soon as humanly possible.
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