The goal is to stop open defecation.
As we acknowledge the first official UN World Toilet Day on November 19, it is worth reaffirming the significance of this very simple instrument, which the Economist hails as the most important invention in the 20th century, and its potential impact on the world.
Shockingly, there are 2.5 billion people today who don’t have access to a safe means of disposing human feces, which contain pathogens that cause diarrheal disease. Access to sanitation is one of the most off-track of the Millennium Development Goals. Over 1 billion people defecate in the open, contaminating the area where children play, the agricultural fields where people gather food and the rivers used for drinking water.
Thousands of children die every day from related diarrheal disease. In infants it can cause malnutrition, which can lead to stunted growth and impaired cognitive development with negative consequences for school performance as well as poor health outcomes later in life. A recent World Bank report finds that open defecation can account for much or all of the excess stunting in India.