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Cleaning Up the World's Sanitation
Date:3/20/2008

UN initiative seeks to halve by 2015 the number of people without toilet access

THURSDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) Sanitation pays: For every dollar spent installing toilets in developing countries, there would be a $9 return in productivity, health and other benefits, according to a UN report released today.

The UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation seeks to halve by 2015 the number of people worldwide who don't have access to a toilet. The estimated cost of the program is $38 billion, less than one percent of annual global military spending. But that $38 billion investment would yield $347 billion worth of net benefits, according to the UN.

For example, meeting the MDG target for sanitation would increase productivity and add 3.2 billion annual working days worldwide. Universal access to toilets around the world would add more than four times as many working days, the report found.

Currently, about 2.6 billion people (more than one-third of Earth's population) lack access to adequate sanitation. Every day, each of those people spends a total of about 30 minutes waiting in line to use a public toilet or seeking a secluded location to relieve themselves. Over one month, that adds up to the equivalent of two working days, the UN said.

The lack of adequate sanitation also leads to lost workdays due to diarrheal disease - either because workers themselves are sick or because they have to stay home to care for a sick child or relative. In addition, many women don't go to work when they're menstruating because their workplaces have no toilets.

Globally, about 200 million tons of human waste and millions of tons of wastewater are discharged uncontained and untreated into waterways every year. This exposes people to disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites, which cause diarrheal disease, parasitic infections, worm infestations, and the eye disease trachoma.

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