WaterAid’s fourth-annual analysis of the world’s toilets highlights that one in five primary schools and one in eight secondary schools globally do not have any toilets. Guinea-Bissau on the coast of West Africa tops the table for worst in the world for school toilets, while Ethiopia remains the nation with the most people without household toilets.
A shocking one in three of the world’s schools lack adequate toilets, compromising children’s human rights to sanitation and leaving them to either use dirty, unsafe pits, go in the open, or stay at home. This means children are dangerously exposed to illnesses that could kill them. Repeated bouts of diarrhoea increase their chances of being malnourished, and sanitation-related illnesses result in missed school days and the loss of potential.
Of the 101 countries with data available on how many schools have decent toilets, Guinea-Bissau in West Africa comes last. There, eight in ten schools lack adequate facilities. This is followed by Niger, where only 24% of schools have even basic sanitation and more than seven in ten people defecate in the open because they lack a household toilet.
The sanitation crisis doesn’t end at school. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 344 million children do not have a decent toilet at home meaning their communities are polluted with human waste. Ethiopia tops the table at anastonishing 93% of households without a decent toilet, leaving children vulnerable to diarrhoea and intestinal infections.
Closer to Australia, Papua New Guinea comes third in the list of countries where the proportion of people with decent toilets at home and school is decreasing. Australia’s closest geographical neighbour suffers from 220 child deaths each year due to water and sanitation-related diarrhoea. Recently, polio – a waterborne disease - has returned to the island after being eradicated in 2000.
Not all news is bad, however. Some countries are making decent toilets in schools a priority. Over half of schools in Bangladesh now have a decent toilet and shared toilets in slum areas are providing a stepping stone to better health. Meanwhile, 73 percent of schools in India now have access to basic sanitation.
- Children living in communities without decent toilets are at higher risk of diarrhoea. Sadly, diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation kills 289,000 children under five each year.
- Diarrhoea and intestinal infections kill more than 140,000 children aged between five and 14 each year – many of which could be prevented with clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene.
- Across South Asia, more than a third of girls miss school for between one and three days a month during their period.
- As many as one in three schools in Madagascar don’t have any functioning toilets at all. It is the third worst country in the world for access to a decent toilet at home – just one person in ten has at least basic sanitation.
- Nearly seven in ten schools in Zambia now have basic toilets, and three quarters of children are able to complete their primary education.