The @UN Deputy Secretary-General Writes About Why Toilets Matter

Jan Eliasson | Elsevier Connect | April 8, 2014

How the UN-led call to action on sanitation can help fight poverty and disease

Why do toilets matter? They matter because they prevent disease and malnutrition, helping children to survive and thrive, communities to flourish and nations to prosper. Every dollar spent on sanitation brings a five-fold return in health and productivity. That is why, community by community, town by town, country by country, we need action to provide sanitation for all.

Today, more than a third of the global population – 2.5 billion people – lacks access to this essential life-saving facility. More than 1 billion people still practice open defecation, which is one of the main causes of diarrhea.

Young children are the most vulnerable. Every day, diarrhea caused by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene kills more than 1,400 children under the age of five – one child a minute. Diarrhea is also closely linked to under-nutrition, which in turn is linked with more than half of all under-five deaths. Under-nourished children have poor immune systems and are at high risk of pneumonia, which kills more children than any other disease. Those who survive are often physically and mentally weakened.