WaterAid supports UN’s new call to end open defecation

World leaders are taking renewed action on one of the world’s most pressing development challenges.

28 May 2014

WaterAid today welcomes a new UN campaign to end open defecation.

Over 1 billion people around the world are forced to relieve themselves in the open, using bushes, fields, or the sides of roads and railway tracks. In these areas, pathogens spread quickly, causing diarrhoea, cholera, bilharzia worms and other life threatening diseases.

Open discussion

Championed by UN Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, the new campaign is expected to continue until the end of 2015. Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid, welcomed the move, saying:

“It is time to break the silence on open defecation. It is incredible to think that in this day and age, people must still risk their health and dignity for the lack of a basic toilet.

“It is even more difficult for girls and women who risk harassment or worse, every time they go in search of a private place to relieve themselves.

“Safe water and basic sanitation has to be a top priority in effectively tackling extreme poverty. We call upon world leaders to set aside their discomfort in talking about open defecation and to take action.”

The impact

WaterAid programme officers see the impact of open defecation every day.

Genetu Addisu, 58, a father of eight living in Yigatsu, on the Zega peninsula in Ethiopia, knows it all too well. His neighbours are constantly ill and talk about how their clothes smell after being washed in the river, which is contaminated with faeces.

“We are all sick,” he said. “I once went to a clinic and was diagnosed with four types of parasites – hookworm, giardia, bilharzia and another amoeba.

“I remember asking the doctor if I would really survive all that dose of medicine.”

In another study, 46 of the 48 children in the local school also tested positive for at least one parasite.

More than 1,400 children die each day of diarrhoeal diseases linked to a lack of safe water, basic sanitation and good hygiene. Some 165 million children under five have also had their growth and brain development irrevocably stunted by malnutrition, much of it due to diarrhoea.

For more information on the UN campaign to stop open defecation, visit >