A joint report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) released Tuesday found that 2.4 billion people worldwide lack sanitation facilities, of whom 946 million defecate in open, common spaces. The total figure is 700 million higher than the target set by the organizations in 1990.
Inadequate sanitation heightens the risk of 16 of the 17 ‘neglected tropical diseases’ (NTDs), according to WHO. The practice of open defecation is especially hazardous, increasing the risk of stunting or chronic malnutrition, which currently afflicts 161 million children worldwide, leaving many with irreparable physical and cognitive damage.
The report blames the shortfall on “inadequate investments in behaviour change campaigns, lack of affordable products for the poor, and social norms which accept or even encourage open defecation.”
Efforts to expand access to clean drinking water have enjoyed greater success: 91% of humanity has access to improved drinking water, with 2.6 billion having gained access since 1990, according to the report.