Revealed: The worst place in the world to go to the toilet

Posted on by Watershed Issues Team

India toilet queue WaterAid

Where in the world would you have to search hardest if you wanted to ‘spend a penny’?

Where would the queue for the loo stretch to the moon and beyond?

Which developed nations are most crap at providing toilets for everyone?

The answers to all the above questions and many more are revealed in WaterAid’s first “It’s No Joke – State of the World’s Toilets” report this World Toilet Day, 19 November.

Examining the queues for loos around the world has revealed some shocking figures. The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has the worst household access to sanitation in the world, followed closely by Niger, Togo and Madagascar.

The report highlights the plight of more than 2.3 billion people in the world who do not have access to a safe, private toilet. Of these, nearly 1 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open – in fields, at roadsides or in bushes.

The result is a polluted environment in which diseases spread fast. An estimated 314,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal illness which could be prevented with safe water, good sanitation and good hygiene. Many more have their physical and cognitive development stunted through repeated bouts of diarrhoea; half of malnutrition is attributed to dirty water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene.

Among the other findings:

• Not everyone in the developed world has toilets. Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden are among nations with measurable numbers still without safe, private household toilets; Russia has the lowest percentage of household toilets of all developed nations.

• India, the world’s second-most populous country, holds the record for the most people waiting for sanitation (774 million) and the most people per square kilometre (173) practising open defecation.

• The tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau has made the most progress on delivering sanitation since 1990; impressively, Nepal comes in the top 4 in this category.

• Nigeria has seen a dramatic slide in the number of people with access to toilets since 1990 despite considerable economic development.

WaterAid’s Chief Executive Barbara Frost said:

“Just two months ago we saw all the member-states of the United Nations promise to deliver access to safe, private toilets to everyone everywhere by 2030. Our analysis shows just how many nations in the world are failing to give sanitation the political prioritisation and financing required. We also know that swift progress is possible, from the impressive advances in sanitation achieved in nations like Nepal and Vietnam. No matter where you are in the world, everyone has a right to a safe, private place to relieve themselves, and to live healthy and productive lives without the threat of illness from poor sanitation and hygiene. On this World Toilet Day, it’s time for the world to make good on their promises and understand that while we all love toilet humour, the state of the world’s sanitation is no joke.”

WaterAid’s senior policy analyst on sanitation, Andrés Hueso, said:

“WaterAid’s analysis of the state of the world’s toilets has exposed some revealing facts: in many cases, nations that need to make great strides on sanitation are falling behind, with devastating consequences for health, education and women’s safety. We need leaders worldwide to state publicly that sanitation is crucial and to prioritise and fund it accordingly. And it’s not enough to just deliver toilets. Transforming hygiene behaviours and making sure that everyone within a community is able to use a toilet – regardless of age, gender or ability – so that they are used by everyone is key to realising the full health benefits.”

This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:

• World leaders to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development. Goal 6 – water, sanitation and hygiene for all – is fundamental to ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, education and gender equality and must be a priority.

• Improving the state of the world’s toilets with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by both national governments and donor countries like the UK.

• National governments to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and birthing centres have safe toilets, clean running water and functional sinks and soap for handwashing, to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths and strengthen children’s ability to attend school; and to include water, sanitation and hygiene in plans to address undernutrition and acute malnutrition.

• Aid to be directed to where it’s most needed, and the mobilising of domestic revenue to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority. Many of the world’s poorest countries who are most in need of aid for sanitation and hygiene are receiving the least, because they don’t meet donors’ strategic priorities.

Read the report on

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