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| Last Updated:: 07/09/2017

Global Coverage

Sanitation is an even bigger problem than lack of water - with 2.5 billion people worldwide suffering from lack of a good enough toilet or latrine. Getting hold of clean water isn’t good enough if the water is being made dirty because there are no toilets, and toilets aren’t good enough if there is no hygiene promotion to get whole communities to change the habits of generations and use the latrines.


Sanitation refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human waste. Basically, we're talking about toilets, or versions of toilets such as latrines. Most developed countries are well equipped with flush toilets, however in developing countries, sanitation is based around much more basic facilities that are often little more than a hole in the ground. Design is not important, as long as the facilities in question dispose of waste in a hygienic way. 2.5 billion people - over one third of the world's population - lack access to sanitation facilities. That's almost twice the number of people living in extreme poverty. Sanitation is also one of the world's leading cause of disease and child death.


Sanitation is crucial to global health. But sanitation suffers from political neglect at every level. There is a sense of shame and stigma attached to the issue that prevents it from being a high profile political issue.


Human waste is full of dangerous bacteria that can cause diseases like cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, polio, cryptosporidiosis, and ascariasis. When waste is not properly managed, it can come into contact with skin, water, insects and other things that ultimately transfer the bacteria back into the human body where it can make people sick.


The most common illness associated with poor sanitation is diarrhea. In developed countries, diarrhea is little more than a nuisance, but for millions of children in the developing world, it's a death sentence.


The primary purpose of good sanitation is health (through disease prevention). Despite the overwhelming importance of sanitation, the world is far behind in providing universal access to safe and hygienic toilets, and the poor are the overwhelming majority of those who miss out.


Getting sanitation right can have a positive effect on economic growth. In parts of Africa, half the hospital beds at any one time can be filled with people suffering from diarrheal diseases. Because of the high financial burden of poor sanitation, on individuals, businesses and healthcare systems, adequate investments in sanitation could provide an estimated additional 3% economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.


Improved sanitation in developing countries typically yields about USD $9 worth of economic benefit for every USD $1 spent, an impressive ratio. The benefits include saving time, reducing direct and indirect health costs, increasing the return on investments in education, and safeguarding water resources. The first element, saving time, should not be underestimated in its contribution to economic benefits in the developing world. People without toilets at home spend a great deal of time each day queuing for public toilets or looking for secluded places to defecate. The World Health Organization estimates this time has an economic value of well over USD 100 billion each year. Moreover, girls attendance in schools accelerates when it improves its sanitation system. So addressing sanitation does not only bring about valuable health benefits, it frees up individuals' time so they can do more productive things, like earning income, than searching for a quiet spot to relieve themselves.


Global goals, targets and indicators for drinking water, sanitation and hygiene



Source : Report Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene


Open Defecation



Source: UNICEF & WHO progress report(2014) on Drinking Water and Sanitation


Globally, 2.5 billion people do not have access to an improved sanitation facility


Number of people(in millions) without access to an improved sanitation facility in 2012


Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2014


Fourteen percent of the global population, or one billion people, practise open defecation


Sanitation coverage trends(%) by MDG regions, 1990-2012


Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2014


Almost two billion people have gained access to improve sanitation since 1990


Number of people (in millions) who gained access to improves sanitation from 1990 to 2012, by MDG region


Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2014


Eighty-two percent of the one billion people practising open defecation in the world live in 10 countries


Top 10 countries with the highest number of people (in millions) practising open defecation


Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2014


Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Peru have reduced open defecation prevalence to single digits


The top 10 countries that have achieved the highest reduction of open defecation since 1990, as a proportion of the population


Source: Progress on sanitation and drinking-water 2014, WHO, Unicef


Sixty-two countries increased sanitation coverage and decreased urban-rural disparities in coverage between 1990 and 2012


Changes in improved sanitation coverage and urban-rural disparity in access, 1990-2012


Source: Progress on sanitation and drinking-water 2014, WHO, Unicef


Sanitation coverage trends by developing regions and the world, 1990–2011.


Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2013


Trends in urban sanitation coverage by developing regions and the world,1990-2011.



Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2013


Trends in rural sanitation coverage by developing regions and the world,1990-2011.



Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2013


Top 10 CATS countries by % of total ODF population and % of country population living in ODF communities


Source: UNICEF Newsletter, "Toilet Talk", 2013.


Sanitation coverage is improving in almost every developing region



Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2012


If current trends contniue, the world will not meet the MDG Sanitation target



Trends in global sanitation coverage 1990-2010, projected to 2015

Source: Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2012


Improvements in the lives of 200 million slum dwellers bring achievement of the MDG target, even as rapid urbanization swells the ranks of the urban poor



The share of urban slum residents in the developing world declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012. More than 200 million of these people gained access to improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing, thereby exceeding the MDG target. This achievement comes well ahead of the 2020 deadline.

Source:The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2012


Countries with large number of people without access to improved sanitation (in millions)


Source: UNDP progress on Drinking water & Sanitation 2012 report