If you’re living in the developed world, you may not realize how important effective portable sanitation is for living a healthy life. Having proper restroom facilities and clean drinking water is something that most people take for granted, but there are billions of people around the world that don’t have the access to basic sanitation. Here are just a few statistics that highlight how lack of sanitation affects the health and safety of people throughout the developing world.
Simple Access to Restrooms and Drinking Water
Around the world 2.6 billion people lack a simple ‘improved latrine’. According to the World Health Organization an ‘improved pit latrine’ is a “dry pit latrine whereby the pit is fully covered by a slab or platform that is fitted either with a squatting hole or seat. The platform should be solid and can be made of any type of material (concrete, logs with earth or mud, cement, etc.) as long as it adequately covers the pit without exposing the pit content other than through the squatting hole or seat.” To most people in the developed world, this doesn’t sounds like a restroom you would like to use but billions of people lack even this basic form of sanitation.
Knowing that so many people lack adequate restrooms, you could easily image how this translates to access to clean drinking water. In fact 1.1 billion people have no access to ‘improved drinking water’. According to the World Health Organization, an improved drinking-water source is defined as “one that, by nature of its construction or through active intervention, is likely to be protected from outside contamination, in particular from contamination with fecal matter.” These people can’t simply turn on a tap in their homes and have safe drinking water available to them, and they can’t buy bottled water at the grocery store. Without access to clean drinking water, these people are highly susceptible to illnesses related to the contaminated water that they are consuming.
Illnesses Caused by Lack of Sanitation and Drinking Water
The World Health Organization defines diarrheal diseases as “the passage of three or more loose or liquid stools per day (or more frequent passage than is normal for an individual)” and these diseases are a major problem in the developing world. 1.6 million people die from diarrheal diseases every year, and 90% of those people are children under the age of five years old. Most of these illnesses are attributed to lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. These people usually die from dehydration and fluid loss throughout the course of their illness. Imagine saving millions of lives by just providing these people with access to sanitation facilities and clean water.
Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye in which there is inflamed granulation on the inner surface of the eyelids. This infection can easily be passed through contact with the eyes, eyelids and nose or throat secretions of infected people and it is the leading preventable cause of blindness throughout the world. Around the world, 500 million people are at risk of contracting trachoma, and of that population 146 million people are threatened by blindness. Also, 6 million are already visually impaired. The loss of one’s sight can make life extremely difficult for people, especially in the developing world, and proper sanitation could help slow the spread of this disease.
Schistosomiasis, or bilharzia is a disease caused by parasitic snails, and it infects 200 million people throughout the world. It is also second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease in the world. The disease generally infects people who are swimming or bathing in local lakes and streams. Water should generally be boiled before using for bathing and drinking, and chemicals can be used in freshwater sources, but if water treatment isn’t sustained, the snails can return.
Intestinal Helminths Infection
Intestinal Helminths Infection are parasitic infections that consist of ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infections. These infections are caused by lack of drinking water and proper sanitation. Approximately 133 million people are affected by these infections and symptoms are debilitating. These types of infections have plagues the developing world, and a simple improvement of restroom facilities and drinking water could greatly reduce the prevalence.
As you can see, many of these diseases are caused by lack of proper sanitation and drinking water, and that is one thing that we may take for granted. Portable restrooms are a fantastic way to contain and dispose of waste properly in both the developed and developing world. For more information about how portable restrooms help the environment and the people in it, visit the Portable Sanitation Association International.