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World Toilet Day Recognizes 2.5 Billion People Without Proper Sanitation

The Lack of Access to Safe Water and Sanitation is Most Pressing Environmental Public Health Issue in the World


By: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

WASHINGTON (November 19, 2008) - Six groups came together to draw attention to the global water sanitation crisis. Around the world, 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation facilities. They do not have a clean and safe place to relieve themselves. At any one time almost half of the developing world's people are suffering from diseases associated with lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. However, solutions are available now and are a good investment. According to the World Health Organization, every dollar spent on proper sanitation by governments generates on average $9 in economic benefit.

"This is a hidden global scandal and it constitutes an affront to human dignity on a massive scale," said Melanie Nakagawa, attorney with the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

This year's World Toilet Day falls during the International Year of Sanitation. To spotlight the sanitation crisis, the UN General Assembly declared the year 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. The goal is to raise awareness and to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015.

"More than half of all girls who drop out of primary school in developing countries do so because they lack separate toilets and access to clean water. Providing basic sanitation to people improves their lives dramatically and helps break the cycle of poverty," said Caitlin Werrell, Earth Day Network's International Program Director.

The groups include PATH, Earth Day Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Water Advocates, and Water For People.

"Millions of children are dying of preventable deaths every year because of diarrheal disease caused by fecal to oral routes of transmission that can be easily obstructed," said Jaehyang So, Manager of the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). "The economic impact of poor sanitation is also staggering. For example, the Economic Impact of Sanitation in Indonesia, a WSP report issued earlier this year, shows that in 2006 negative impacts of poor sanitation cost that country an estimated US $6.3 billion, or 2.3 percent of gross domestic product. Previous WSP reports also found significant losses in GDP in Cambodia (7.2%), Lao PDR (6.4%), Philippines (1.5%) and Vietnam (1.3%)."

Of the 2.5 billion people without access, nearly 1 billion are children. Approximately every 20 seconds a child dies as a direct result of a lack of access to basic sanitation -- this is nearly 2 million preventable deaths each year.

"Toilets are a health technology that we take for granted every time we flush," says Dr. John Wecker, Director of PATH's Rotavirus Vaccine Program. "Making sanitation accessible to everyone in the world -- no matter where they live or how much money they have -- could allow us to make great strides in reducing diarrheal disease in children and give them the start in life that they deserve."

World Toilet Day is also aimed at encouraging governments and its partners to promote and implement policies and actions for meeting the sanitation target and to mobilize communities towards improving sanitation and hygiene practices. Improved sanitation decreases the incidences of such debilitating and deadly maladies as cholera, intestinal worms, diarrhea, pneumonia, dysentery and skin infections. Sanitation in schools enables children, particularly girls reaching puberty, to remain in the educational system.




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