The One Vital Area of Development That Should Shame and Shock Us All

Over the last 30 years, the percentage of developing-world citizens living on less than $1.25 per day has more than halved from 50% to 17%, despite a substantial increase in the population. However, despite the progress made in reducing global poverty, improving gender equality, and education, there is one vital area of development in this era of unprecedented global prosperity that should shame and shock us all.

There are currently 2.4 billion people who live without access to adequate sanitation, 1 billion people who currently defecate in the open, and 748 million people who live without access to improved drinking water. Despite 6 billion mobile-phone subscriptions, only 4.5 billion people have access to a flush toilet.

Lack of access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) has direct health implications — diarrhea kills 2,195 children every day — more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. The tragedy is that it is also preventable. Nearly 88 percent of diarrhea can be traced to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

In 2008, the international community acknowledged the importance of sanitation by including it in the Millennium Development Goals. However, as the deadline looms, the world is waking up to the sad fact that the target is going to be missed by half a billion people.

This is a human-rights crisis of enormous proportions. But the challenge is not only a moral one. Sanitation and hygiene are critical enablers of health, social and economic development in the poorest and most marginalized corners of the world.

In addition, this is a cross-cutting issue that can further other development goals, including poverty reduction, education, health, equality, women’s empowerment, productivity and sustainable cities.

Good sanitation can be a powerful and cost-effective engine of economic growth. A mere fraction of —> Read More