By Jonathan Benson, contributing writer to Natural News
On behalf of the roughly 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have access to basic sanitation facilities like toilets, the United Nations has designated November 19 as “World Toilet Day,” raising awareness about the importance of basic sanitary standards in overcoming communicable diseases like Ebola.
According to the international agency, about 35 percent of the human population currently lacks access to toilets, and many of these same folks also suffer from constant exposure to contaminated drinking water, which often contains residues of human feces. This lack of basic sanitation increases the risk of disease spread, especially among younger children.
A report by the international development group WaterAid found that most of the deaths that occur among children under the age of five occur because toilets aren’t available to them. More than 10 million children age five and under, in fact, have died since 2000 as a result of this, prompting elevated concern by global agencies.
“Where there is nowhere safe and clean to go to the toilet, people are exposed to disease, lack of privacy and indignity,” explains WaterAid. “When communities defecate in the open, disease spreads fast and water sources are polluted.”
Since 1990, More Than 2.3 Billion People Have Gained Access to Cleaner Drinking Water
Though the situation remains dire for many, there is some good news in all this. Between 1990 and 2012, about 2.3 billion people who previously didn’t have access to clean drinking water gained access to it, according to UN-Water data. During that same time, childhood fatalities from diarrheal diseases dropped significantly in areas where sanitation improved.
UN data show that, with these improvements in water quality, the number of deaths from diarrheal diseases dropped to nearly one-third of what it was previously. A study published in the peer-reviewed Lancet journal found that the number of deaths among children age four and younger fell from roughly 1.5 million prior to the improvements to 578,000.
“For every dollar invested in water and sanitation, there is a $4.3 return in the form of reduced health care costs for individuals and society around the world,” explains a UN report. “International aid for water and sanitation is on the rise… financial commitments increased by 30 per cent between 2010 and 2012 — from $8.3 billion to $10.9 billion.”
Many Still Lack Basic Sanitation Services, Furthering Spread of Deadly Diseases
But in those areas that still lack basic sanitation services, so-called “preventable deaths” are still rampant. According to WaterAid, as many as 508,000 children died last year as a result of not having basic cleanliness resources like soap and water to wash hands.
In countries that lack these basic necessities, communicable diseases are much more likely to spread, just like they did during the earlier part of the 19th century in the U.S. in some areas. Though often attributed to the advent of vaccines, this massive reduction in preventable deaths in the West was the direct result of improved sanitation standards.
“Poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in communities and institutional settings, especially health facilities, exacerbated the spread of Ebola in West Africa,” states a recent Bloomberg report.
Most of those suffering from a lack of basic sanitation resources aren’t in Africa, as might be assumed, but rather in India, where 60 percent of the world’s residents without toilets currently live. All this human waste ends up polluting groundwater, waterways and crops, leading to the rapid spread of infectious diseases like cholera and Ebola.
*Image of “toilet” via Shutterstock