India has most number of people waiting for sanitation in the world says WaterAid

On this World Toilet Day, 19 November, WaterAid India is calling on central and state governments to commit to delivering universal access to sanitation following the release of a new report showing which countries in the world have the worst rates of access to safe, private toilets.

WaterAid’s first “It’s No Joke – State of the World’s Toilets” report reveals the hardest places in the world to find a toilet, where you’ll find the most people waiting, and which developed nations are facing their own challenges on sanitation. The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has the worst household access to sanitation in the world, followed closely by Niger, Togo and Madagascar the report reveals.

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Access to safe sanitation, and ensuring that everyone in a community uses a toilet, is key to better health and an important measure in addressing undernutrition linked to chronic diarrhoeal illnesses.

The report highlights the plight of more than 2.3 billion people in the world who do not have access to a safe, private toilet. Of these, nearly 1 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open – in fields, at roadsides or in bushes. The result is a polluted environment in which diseases spread fast. An estimated 314,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal illness which could be prevented with safe water, good sanitation and good hygiene. Many more have their physical and cognitive development stunted through repeated bouts of diarrhoea, blighting their life chances.

India now has 60.4% of its people without access to safe, private toilets. Since 1990, access has improved by 22.8 percentage points, putting it at 7th out of eight countries for improvement in South Asia, of countries for which data is available. In South Asia, Nepal has seen the most improvement, followed by Pakistan and Bhutan.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • India, the world’s second-most populous country, holds the record for the most people waiting for sanitation (774 million) and the most people per square kilometre (173) practising open defecation.
  • The tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau has made the most progress on delivering sanitation since 1990; impressively, Nepal, despite the immense challenges posed by its mountainous landscape, comes in the top 4 in this category.
  • Nigeria has seen a dramatic slide in the number of people who have access to toilets since 1990.
  • Not everyone in the developed world has toilets. Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden are among nations with measurable numbers still without safe, private household toilets; Russia has the lowest percentage of household toilets of all developed nations.

WaterAid India’s Chief Executive Neeraj Jain said:

“As we observe yet another World Toilet Day, more than 140,000 children younger than five years continue to die each year in India from diarrhoea and nearly 40% of our children are stunted. The Swachh Bharat Mission has the highest political commitment driving it but lot needs to be done still to make India truly open defecation free. The commitments need to go beyond just the construction of toilets to focus on other critical aspects like collective behaviour change, hygiene and technology intervention. Education to change people’s attitudes towards sanitation is crucial if we are to realise the full health and economic benefits of sanitation.”

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This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:

  • World leaders to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development. Goal 6 – water, sanitation and hygiene for all – is fundamental to ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, education and gender equality.
  • Improving the state of the world’s toilets with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by both national governments and donor countries like the UK.
  • National governments to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and birthing centres have safe toilets, clean running water and functional sinks and soap for handwashing, to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths and strengthen children’s ability to attend school; and to include water, sanitation and hygiene in plans to address undernutrition and acute malnutrition.
  • Aid to be directed to where it’s most needed, and the mobilising of domestic revenue to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority. Many of the world’s poorest countries who are most in need of aid for sanitation and hygiene are receiving the least, because they don’t meet donors’ strategic priorities.

Toilet Facts

44 per cent of the total population in India still defecate in the open.

Open defecation causes chronic diarrhoea that leads to stunting.