Despite compelling evidence that shows the benefits of investing in sanitation, it continues to be a subject many of us would prefer not to think about. But that doesn’t change the reality: It’s estimated that around one billion people in our world today face the indignity of defecating in the open. Diarrhoea diseases—a direct consequence of poor sanitation—kill more kids every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
But it’s more than just an issue of public health, it’s increasingly an issue of access to education. For example, a lack of clean and safe toilets at schools leads to higher dropout among girls once they reach puberty. For many girls the lack of privacy, safety and proper facilities prevents them from continuing with their education. Without a toilet, the open air alternative leaves them open to attack by snakes and sexual assault. Even if there are latrines available, the lack of segregation threatens sensitive gender differences—in a study by the Red Cross in Senegal, girls are warned off urinating in the dirty and public school latrines: they may simply ‘hold on’ to their bladder all day, even to the extent of not drinking to avoid the need to urinate. Evidence shows that not dehydration and ‘holding on’ can severely effect levels of concentration, and can lead to significant health problems.
So help us. Yes, we really have to go.
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