1B Around World Defecate in Public, Warns UN

It's a huge health risk, says new study

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted May 8, 2014 2:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new UN report warns of an under-the-radar health risk: It estimates that 1 billion impoverished people around the world still have no access to toilets, reports Reuters. While that number is down from 1.3 billion in 1990, it still leaves far too many who "defecate in gutters, behind bushes or in open water bodies, with no dignity or privacy," says the study. The practice puts them at risk for a wide range of health problems, including cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid, and it's especially dangerous for young children.

India is the worst offender, with an estimated 600 million public defecators, but the report also singles out sub-Saharan Africa because it has 26 nations where the practice is increasing. In Nigeria, for instance, the UN estimates 39 million public defecators, up from 23 million in 1990. The report says a big part of the problem is that people don't understand the health risks, as evidenced by unused latrines put into place by UNICEF in various poor nations. Along those lines, India's UNICEF recently unveiled an animated character named "Mr. Poo" to spread the word, reports the Wall Street Journal. There's even a song.

Indian migrant laborers await their turn to bathe at a public tube well in New Delhi, India.
Indian migrant laborers await their turn to bathe at a public tube well in New Delhi, India.   (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
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