Upon launching the Clean India Campaign in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed that the sanitation crisis is the greatest threat to a strong and ever-growing Indian state. The Prime Minister was correct in identifying the portentous threat to India’s future; however, he failed to address the global implications and far-reaching ramifications of failing to take action.

2.4 billion people currently lack adequate sanitation facilities. 1 billion of these people still practice open defecation. 783 million do not have access clean drinking water.[i] While these numbers astonish and unsettle, the visible effects of the global sanitation crisis are even more harrowing: water sources with 75 percent of its surface water polluted and undrinkable, and one child dying every minute due to cholera and other waterborne diseases.

Sanitation and its related issues are embedded in the heart of the movement for universal water security. Without improved and functional sanitation systems, water security can never be achieved. Microbial water pollution as a result of open defecation contaminates affected community’s primary source for bathing, drinking, and agriculture, continuing the epidemic of disease, malnutrition, and dehydration that proves fatal all too often.

Beyond the public health consequences, the Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) concluded that the lack of access to sanitation costs the world 260 billion dollars annually, making the economic expense of ambivalence and inaction almost as great as the human cost.[ii] Across the globe, 140 million hours are spent each day collecting water, preventing individuals from pursuing jobs, rearing and educating their children, and stagnating local economic development efforts.[iii]

Despite such a grim outlook, the financial dividends to be gained from addressing sanitation issues are great. For every dollar invested in sanitation projects, an aggregate of 28 dollars of economic output is generated. However, while the incentive to commit money and man-power to mitigate this problem is evident, the United States contributed a mere 144.2 million dollars to support global WASH initiatives last year.[iv]

In 2013, Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon launched an initiative to end open defecation by 2025. While this goal seems idealistic and lofty, it is quite achievable. Since 1990, 2.1 billion people have gained access to proper sanitation facilities.[v] We believe that a concentrated and consistent campaign, coordinated by international agencies, NGOs, and community leaders can provide improved sanitation technology to the remaining 2.4 billion still afflicted by this plight.

The right to a secure and sanitary place to relieve oneself is universal, transcending socio-economic and cultural boundaries. In a world with more cellphones than toilets and rapid technological advancement, there is no reason such a basic, human right is not guaranteed. It’s time to get off our porcelain thrones and ensure that no more children die due to the lack of something as simple as access to a toilet.


[i]Eliasson, Jan. "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water – 2015 Update and MDG
Assessment." World Health Organization, n.d. Web.
[ii]Hutton, Guy. "Economics of Sanitation Initiative." Water and Sanitation Program - The
World Bank, n.d. Web
[iii]Hutton, Guy. "Economics of Sanitation Initiative." Water and Sanitation Program - The
World Bank, n.d. Web
[iv]Eliasson, Jan. "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water – 2015 Update and MDG
Assessment." World Health Organization, n.d. Web.
[v]Eliasson, Jan. "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water – 2015 Update and MDG
Assessment." World Health Organization, n.d. Web.

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