Sunday, March 24, 2013

2.5 billion people don't have basic sanitation on Earth

Deputy UN chief calls for urgent action to tackle global sanitation crisis

Living amid waste. Photo: IRIN/Manoocher Deghati
21 March 2013 – United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today launched a call for urgent action to end the crisis of 2.5 billion people without basic sanitation, and to change a situation in which more people worldwide have mobile phones than toilets.
The call to action, which comes on the eve of World Water Day, aims to focus on improving hygiene, changing social norms, better managing human waste and waste-water, and, by 2025, completely eliminating the practice of open defecation, which perpetuates the vicious cycle of disease and entrenched poverty.
“I am determined to energize action that will lead to results,” said Mr. Eliasson. “I am calling on all actors – government, civil society, business and international organizations – to commit to measurable action and to mobilize the resources to rapidly increase access to basic sanitation.
“Let’s face it – this is a problem that people do not like to talk about. But it goes to the heart of ensuring good health, a clean environment and fundamental human dignity for billions of people – and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. With just over a thousand days for action before the 2015 MDG deadline, we have a unique window of opportunity to deliver a generational change.”

The MDG target to halve the proportion of people without access to sanitation has helped to raise the profile of the issue, and 1.8 billion people gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, but there is still far to go, notes a news release on the new initiative. Meanwhile, the MDG target to halve the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water has already been met.
Of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines – meaning that 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation. In addition, 1.1 billion people still defecate in the open.
The countries where open defecation is most widely practiced are the same countries with the highest numbers of under-five child deaths, high levels of under-nutrition and poverty, and large wealth disparities.
“We strongly support this effort to increase the focus on sanitation,” said the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Martin Mogwanja, who noted that ending open defecation will contribute to a 36 per cent reduction in diarrhoea, which kills three quarters of a million children under five each year.
“We can reduce the cases of diarrhoea in children under five by a third simply by expanding the access of communities to sanitation and eliminating open defecation,” he told reporters at the launch of the call to action at UN Headquarters. “In fact, diarrhoea is the second largest killer of children under five in the developing world and this is caused largely by poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene.”
Mr. Mogwanja said he witnessed personally the impact of open defecation in both development and humanitarian contexts when he worked in Pakistan. A total sanitation project was developed there for the flood-affected areas, together with non-governmental and government partners. In less than two years, over six million people gained access to toilets and are now living in open defecation-free communities.
“But the effort succeeded not by building latrines; it succeeded by getting people to recognize and to talk about the problem,” he stated.
The private sector also played an important part in this transformation, he said, by engaging in sanitation marketing activities, and developing a supply chain which ensured that people had access to the right products in the right place at the right time.
“And it worked,” Mr. Mogwanja stated, noting that with the direct support of UNICEF and its partners, over 25 million people in over 44,000 communities now live in open defecation-free environments.
“This can also improve the safety of women and girls, who are often targeted when they are alone outdoors. And providing safe and private toilets may also help girls to stay in school which we know can increase their future earnings and help break the cycle of poverty.”
The call to action will not set up any new structures or funding mechanisms, but focus on generating action at the community level – one community at a time.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Related Stories

In-depth Interviews

Investment in Sanitation ‘a Down-payment on a Sustainable Future’, Secretary-General Says in Message for World Water Day
Safe Water, Proper Sanitation, Disaster Preparedness Issues of ‘Life and Death’ for Millions of People, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Thematic Session
General Assembly Wraps Up Two Meetings — on Achieving Human Right to Water and Sanitation; Revitalizing Conference on Disarmament

end quote from:

After going to Bihar province in India in 1985 was likely 20 times better than some places in Africa, still I saw at some places 1000s of people with leprosy lined up alongside the road leading to holy places with noses and fingers gone from the disease. It was very hard to imagine this happening today and not in the times of the movie "Ben Hur". Because about 4 dollars in medicine at the right point in all their lives would have stopped this disease along with clean water and basic hygiene. But, most if not all the people might have been beggars before they were infected and likely had no education at all. Without an education or access to someone who is educated people get leprosy and slowly die over the years. It starts with losing noses and fingers and is a very slow and painful death over the years. It is now 28 years later and I haven't been back yet so I don't know what has happened since then. That day the Tibetan Lama I was with with my family bought several thousand small pieces of candy and gave each leper and their kids a piece of candy. I thought to myself at the time how remarkable a thing was that? I wonder if any of them had ever had candy before or what effect candy would have upon someone who might not have eaten in several days?

I also encountered spiritual gatherings of around 500,000 people. In situations like this often there were sometimes 10 or 12 toilets so you can imagine what the surrounding fields looked like. You really had to watch where you stepped if you went out into the fields. So, people in these situations from Europe, Japan, rich Indians and the U.S. and other places often wore surgical cloth masks or a reasonable facsimile masks to protect themselves from flies and disease. I also heard rumors of how many people in these kinds of situations who succumbed to diseases or were trampled some time of the day in these crowded conditions back then in 1985.

No comments: