One out of every three people in the world today has no toilet. Of the 2.5 billion people without proper toilets or sewage systems, nearly one billion people regularly defecate in rivers or fields, spreading germs that cause diarrheal disease. Diarrheal disease kills thousands of children each day – it is the second leading cause of death in children under five. Children who survive this preventable disease often miss school due to illness or suffer from malnutrition and stunting detrimental to their long-term health. Furthermore, poor sanitation also leads to costs valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars every year by damaging health, environment, and tourism.
The economic losses that stem from this lack of access to proper sanitation amount to an estimated US$260 billion annually, more than the entire gross domestic product of Chile. In some countries, economic losses from the lack of sanitation are equivalent to up to 7 percent of GDP.
Toilets move into focus
As the largest multilateral financier of water and sanitation development, the World Bank is renewing its commitment to a worldwide effort to expand access to sanitation. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has articulated a strategy that seeks to end extreme poverty by 2030 and promote shared prosperity to boost the incomes of the poorest 40 percent of the population in each country, who are often those most affected by the sanitation crisis. Expanding access to sanitation is key to both ending poverty and providing the basis for greater prosperity worldwide.
Sanitation development practitioners recognize the need to leverage the renewed sense of energy focused on sanitation and embrace innovative approaches to make a large scale impact in sanitation. Leading up to the recent World Bank-IMF spring meetings, a high-profile event on investing in sanitation brought together World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, and American Standard Vice President for Product Development Jim McHale to discuss the crisis and taboo associated with discussing poor sanitation.