Journalists can provide the voice for the silent billions in need of safe sanitation and hygiene.

From politics to human interest, and economics to health, safe sanitation is a part of everyone's life. Print, broadcast and online journalists and outlets are welcome to examine the backgrounders below or contact our communications department for help with interviews, topics, materials and research on sanitation -- one of the most important stories of the century. Contact WSSCC's media team for more assistance.

World's most effective health intervention
At USD 5 per DALY (disability adjusted life years, a unit measuring the amount of health lost due to a disease or a condition) averted, hygiene promotion is a veritable bargain. By comparison, a DALY costs an average of USD 10 for insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria; around $100 for condom promotion and distribution to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS; and from USD 80 to $800 for directly observed short-course chemotherapy for endemic, infections or non-infectious tuberculosis. With the burden of disease costing the world $4.1 trillion each year, such simple hygiene acts as hand washing, safe disposal of shit, and good general hygiene around food, domestic animals, and sick family members, are the world's most cost-effective health interventions.

I'm a survivor! To be or not to be (Randomly)
England's Stratford-upon-Avon, where the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, was born around 1560, was not the kind of place one would choose to enter this world. The putrid conditions in the village led to an infant mortality rate that was so high that surviving past the age of 5 was often a matter of random chance. As notable figures go, Shakespeare was not alone in being a random childhood survivor. Nelson Mandela (b. 1918, Mvezo, South Africa), Martin Luther King Jr. (b. 1929, Atlanta, USA) , Mohandas Gandi (b. 1869, Porbandar, British India), Mother Teresa (b. 1910, Skopje, Ottoman Empire), Eva Peron (b. 1919, Los Toldos, Argentina), and Kofi Annan (b. 1938, Kumasi, Gold Coast) are but a few of history's greats whom the world can thank for surviving past the age of five. Today, two million children die each year before the age of 5 because of diarrhea.

Community-led total sanitation: the new and successful hot approach
One of the best feel-good stories in the effort to end open defecation and help more people be served by sanitation is the ascendance of CLTS, community-led total sanitation. CLTS represents a shift from centralized top-down supply-driven approaches to decentralized, people-centred demand-driven approaches. Developed in Bangladesh, the approach takes advantage of the knowledge and opinions of rural people in the planning and management of sanitation programmes in their own villages, and success are being seen as the approach spreads into India and Africa.

Wishing you could hide those pryin' eyes
Poor women and girls are hit hardest by the absence of toilets. They care for the  sick and are in greatest physical contact with human waste. Lacking toilets in overcrowded slums means going the whole day without relieving oneself and then risking exposure – or even assault – at night, a humiliating daily routine that can damage health. Menstruation adds considerably to the need for sanitary facilities. Sexual harassment and rape are also a risk in rural areas, where women often seek privacy in the darkness, and in refugee camps, which all too often fail to provide safely located, women-only toilets. These realities absorb women’s time, imperil their physical well-being, and limit their free and equal participation in the economic and social life of their societies.

Weird math
The Global Water Partnership estimated in 2000 that, while $13 billion was spent by donors on water, just USD 1 billion was committed to sanitation. More recent figures from the Joint Monitoring Programme of WHO and UNICEF suggest a proportion of eight to one. With 2.5 billion people lacking sanitation, but 894 million lacking good drinking water, more investment is needed in sanitation. Why has sanitation been the "orphan child" in WATSAN (water and sanitation) funding and programmes?

Boom times behind that closed door
Improved sanitation in developing countries typically yields about $9 worth of economic benefit for every $1 spent. That is an impressive ratio, though it is still relatively unknown outside of the sector. These benefits are mainly: saving time, reducing direct and indirect health costs, increasing the return on investments in education, and safeguarding water resources. The biggest element is the first one, saving time. 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.

What's in a number?
In our multimedia world, news reports inundate us everywhere and at any time. For example, as of 2007, there were 2.5 billion mobile phones in use. The same year, iTunes music sales exceed 2.5 billion. For its Olympic effort, China planted 2.5 billion trees in 2008. Carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants are now at roughly 2.5 billion tonnes per year. The "Idol" franchise is worth USD 2.5 billion. Sadly, 2.5 billion is also the number of people unserved by sanitation around the world. Of these roughly 0.7 billion are in India, 0.7 billion in China, 0.7 billion in Africa and the remainder in other places, including the Caribbean. In reality, "unserved" means that 2.5 billion people wake up every morning with nowhere to go to shit. 2.5 billion is a shockingly large number of people.


Last updated: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:27