WHO: Key facts
- In 2017, 45% of the global population (3.4 billion people) used a safely managed sanitation service.
- 31% of the global population (2.4 billion people) used private sanitation facilities connected to sewers from which wastewater was treated.
- 14% of the global population (1.0 billion people) used toilets or latrines where excreta were disposed of in situ.
- 74% of the world’s population (5.5 billion people) used at least a basic sanitation service.
- 2.0 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines.
- Of these, 673 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water.
- At least 10% of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater.
- Cropland in peri-urban areas irrigated by mostly untreated urban wastewater is estimated to be approximately 36 million hectares (equivalent to the size of Germany)
- Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio and exacerbates stunting.
- Poor sanitation reduces human well-being, social and economic development due to impacts such as anxiety, risk of sexual assault, and lost educational opportunities.
- Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432 000 diarrhoeal deaths annually and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma. Poor sanitation also contributes to malnutrition.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized access to safe
Sustainable Development Goal target 6.2 calls for adequate and equitable sanitation for all. The target is tracked with the indicator of “safely managed sanitation services” – use of an improved type of sanitation facility that is not shared with other households and from which the excreta produced are either safely treated in situ, or transported and treated off-site.
Sanitation and health
Some 827 000 people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene each year, representing 60% of total diarrhoeal deaths. Poor sanitation is believed to be the main cause in some 432 000 of these deaths.
Diarrhoea remains a major killer but is largely preventable. Better water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent the deaths of 297 000 children aged under 5 years each year.
Open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty. The countries where open defection is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children aged under 5 years as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty, and big disparities of wealth.
Benefits of improving sanitation
Benefits of improved sanitation extend well beyond reducing the risk of diarrhoea. These include:
- reducing the spread of intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, which are neglected tropical diseases that cause suffering for millions;
- reducing the severity and impact of malnutrition;
- promoting dignity and boosting safety, particularly among women and girls;
- promoting school attendance: girls’ school attendance is particularly boosted by the provision of separate sanitary facilities; and
- potential recovery of water, renewable energy and nutrients from faecal waste.