In 2008, around 40% of the world’s population was still without good quality sanitation. However, the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF under the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation are, despite everything, beginning to bear fruit: the percentage of the world’s population reduced to satisfying their “call of nature” out in the open is now “no more than” 17%, compared with 25% in 1990.
More than a billion men and women across the world defecate out in the open. Although this practice – the most unhygienic of all – is generally in decline, it remains firmly rooted in Southeast Asia. For 44% of the population, improvised toilets are the only option.
Seven times out of ten, rural areas are affected by the lack of sanitation systems. Access to “improved sanitation” is a long way from becoming as widespread as access to drinking water; 87% of the population now has access to this. With respect to drinking water, the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved by 2015. The WHO agrees that this will probably not be the case with sanitation, where the threshold of a billion new connections seems elusive.
Yet every year these problems – poor water quality and lack of sanitation systems – cost the lives of 1.5 million children under the age of 5. This clearly requires global consideration. Waste matter can be transformed into fuel, an interesting option providing extra energy resources in areas often affected by the most extreme levels of poverty. For example, in areas of both Tibet and India, animal excrement is commonly burned as fuel instead of wood.