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World Toilet Day: Importance of Preventing Sanitation-Associated Infectious Diseases

NOV 17, 2017 | KRISTI ROSA
One-third of the global population does not have access to basic sanitation and about 40% of the world’s populace is living without access to a clean and safe toilet.

That is almost half of the global population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that this equates to about 2.5 billion individuals around the world lacking “improved sanitation facilities,” which they define as “separating human waste from human contact in a hygienic way.”

To promote awareness of this issue, the CDC recognizes World Toilet Day, on November 19th each year. According to the CDC, the hope is that through innovation and education “the gap between safe toilets and unhealthy living conditions can be bridged.”

Unsanitary living conditions are one of the main factors that contribute to several harmful infectious diseases, which, in turn, can result in severe outbreaks, making lack of access to proper toileting facilities an enormous issue. In fact, according to the CDC, unsafe water and poor sanitation are linked with a staggering 80% of diseases in developing countries.

Some of the primary water- or sanitation-related diseases are:
  • Diarrhea. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that inadequate sanitation causes about 280,000 diarrhea-related deaths each year. In fact, a lack of sanitation is a key player when it comes to several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, trachoma, and schistosomiasis—a snail-borne parasitic disease that is endemic in tropical and subtropical countries. In early 2016, WHO teamed up with other government authorities to work with communities in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to take action against the disease. The initiative included the creation of a task force to assess the situation through surveys. One survey found that 67% of households in one village lacked latrines, and, furthermore, in 60% of households the residents openly defecated—both factors contribute to transmission of the disease. Officials offered education on preventing transmission of the disease, and helped the task force design a plan to help residents engage in better hygiene practices, and build/use latrines in the areas.


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