Sanitation Control in Developing Countries

by Claire Thomas on February 20, 2014

Source: World Health Organization

Source: World Health Organization

Source: World Health Organization

Source: World Health Organization

Many people know that lack of drinking water and food are huge problems facing the world’s developing countries today. However, another large public health problem in these areas is sanitation and human waste disposal. According to the World Health Organization, “far more people lack access to a properly managed toilet or latrine, than to water” (WHO). This surprising statistic means that the world needs to start paying more attention to poor sanitation and the health risks that come along with it as lack of sanitation and waste management can bring disease and death to a population. These health risks often cause disease and death particularly in young children, the elderly, and people who already have disease such as HIV/AIDS. As many as “2.4 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation: they lack safe means of disposal of excreta and waste water…40% of the world’s population is still without basic sanitation.”

Lack of sanitation causes great harm to the environment and people that live there. It can promote increase of insects that carry infectious disease to spread, contaminated drinking water, contaminated food supply, limited bathing options to people, and can offset the balance of the environment due to other species being effected. The problems of sanitation are all around the globe, in Africa, Asia, and even in industrialized countries. One sanitation issue in Africa is lack of wastewater treatment. In parts of “Africa, virtually no wastewater receives treatment before it is discharged.” Wastewater not being treated means that this waste goes directly back into the environment affecting other species and possibly contaminating human bathing and food resources. Another problem is latrines that serve a far greater population than they should, resulting in overuse and lack of treatment of human waste. For example, “in Ecuador, latrines designed for use by 30 to 40 pupils, in reality served as many as 180.” These problems also impact education; “a lack of separate sanitation facilities for girls has been cited as a prime cause of girls leaving school before finishing their studies.” Poor waste management and disposal affect issues beyond health like education, along with food supply and the environment.

Waste contains microorganisms including pathogens that can harm humans that come into contact with them. For example, the disease trachoma causes blindness and is “closely linked to poor sanitation and is one of the best examples of an infection readily preventable through basic hygiene.” Infectious disease is largely preventable and should not still be a major killer in developing countries. Clean latrines and a sanitary community can help reduce infectious disease morbidity and mortality in these countries.

Waste is not a bad thing; improper disposal is the enemy of human development and sustainability. If waste is disposed of properly, it can benefit the environment instead of hindering it. If waste goes into fertilizer instead of back into food supply and bathing facilities, it can help food shortages and not contaminate. A shortage of clean water is also a problem for developing countries. Instead of using fresh water, “using treated wastewater for irrigation may allow high quality freshwater resources to be reserved” and increase the amount of drinking water for all while still allowing crop irrigation. A greater worldwide focus on the need to improve sanitation can help many other problems in developing countries. Many people realize that sanitation is a problem, but do not realize the effects of poor waste disposal and the other problems it can create through contamination and infectious disease. Communities need to be identified that need more sanitation facilities and the world needs to fund projects that allow for long-term sustainability, less environmental impact on the world, and better health for developing countries.



Prepared for Water, Sanitation and Health. Written by Dr. Rosalind Stanwell Smith and reviewed by the Water and Sanitation Programme, World Bank and the Water, Sanitation and Health Unit (WSH), World Health Organization (WHO)

© 2001–2003, 2002 WHO



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