Sunday, September 2, 2012

Running the numbers

I recently underwent TA training for my university, where I had to do a ten minute presentation on whatever I wanted. (Ok, it was supposed to be something that we were going to teach, but I decided to do some shameless promotion of the importance of sanitation instead.) My presentation was on "why shit matters." Someone came up to me afterwards and said, "Thanks for your presentation. I didn't realize how big of a problem it was."

This got me thinking that perhaps not all of the people reading this blog realize how important sanitation is. So let me introduce you to some numbers.

2.5 billion people

Number of people who don't have access to "basic sanitation," defined as being sanitation that is "hygienic" and separates waste. Practically, it means they're openly defecating, using buckets, "flying toilets" (plastic bags they throw out the window), or "dry latrines" (bricks on top of the ground you sit on to defecate).
This is 1/3 of the planet.

1.6 million people

Number of people who die every year from diarrheal diseases, including cholera. These can be prevented through clean water and proper sanitation. 90% of these deaths are children under 5. More people die of diarrhea than typhoid, AIDS, and malaria combined.
 

146 million people

are threatened by blindness from trachoma.

6 million people

are visually impaired from trachoma.
This is more people than are in the entire metropolitan Washington DC area.
 

133 million people

are suffering from "intense" intestinal helminths.
This is equivalent to approximately 42% of the population of the United States.
 
If the health impacts don't motivate you, here are some of the economic impacts of sanitation on various countries' GDP's:
 
India: 6.4%
Cambodia: 7.3%
Benin: 1.5%
 
Is this really acceptable?

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