Poor sanitation is a leading cause of a wide range of adverse effects on people’s health, education, safety, and economic status. Providing clean and safe sanitation provides disadvantaged people with the foundations from which to achieve a full education and improve their health and wellbeing. The benefits of sanitation, therefore, far exceed the mere physical existence of a toilet.
As a concise adaptation of our Why Toilets blog, we have created a list of five of the main ways not having a toilet can detrimentally impact peoples’ lives.
There are many serious health problems associated with open defecation, from diarrhea to dysentery; diseases which are often disabling and likely to result in further complications and long-term conditions. Importantly, not only do such illnesses severely impact upon the health of sufferers, they are also likely to severely inhibit people’s ability to work and, in turn, dramatically reduce household incomes, meaning entire families are adversely affected.
Additionally, having access to clean and safe sanitation would reduce the percentage of income that is spent on medical expenses; currently, impoverished people in the developing world spend up to 25% of their income on medication.
In the absence of accessible toilets in schools, young children tend to avoid drinking water throughout the day, in order to prevent themselves needing the toilet and, in turn, having to leave the school grounds. Not only does this lead to health problems, it also means that children are often in great discomfort whilst learning which, of course, has a negative effect on their education.
Furthermore, it is estimated that 23% of girls drop out of school when they start their periods. There is a great deal of shame and embarrassment surrounding menstruation which heightens the discomfort that young girls feel when they have no private space at school.
Improving sanitation facilities in schools would and, indeed, does have a profoundly positive impact on gender equality as it breaks down one of the biggest barriers between girls and their future earning potential. Sanitation First has found that there is a 17.5% increase in the number of girls enrolling when we construct a toilet in a school; a major factor in increasing the earning potential of an individual.
Open defecation puts the safety and security of children at risk. When a little boy or girl ventures out of the school grounds to find a place to go to the toilet, they are vulnerable to harassment and attack. This is not only the case for young children; there have been multiple incidents involving women who have been assaulted while looking for a private place to use as a toilet.
Our data suggests that where toilet facilities are accessible and are regularly used by the family, there is a 31% increase in household income. Significantly, having more money enables parents to ensure their own and their children’s education and general welfare.