Despite global efforts to improve access to clean water and sanitation, 2.6 billion people, or half of the developing world, lack access to even an “improved” latrine to allow for a basic level of hygiene and protect water supplies from contamination.
A lack of adequate funding and high-level commitment to the problem have certainly hampered efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people who lack adequate sanitation (from 1990 levels) by 2015. There’s also a challenge that I found surprising the first time I heard of it: you can give people latrines or toilets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll use them. Apparently, unless people see the need for latrines and value them, the facilities may sit unused or turn into storage sheds (a problem that has sparked the Community-Led Total Sanitation movement).
The Washington Post’s Emily Wax brings us news of a trend in rural India that’s raising the profile of sanitation improvements: women are refusing to marry unless the prospective grooms provide them with toilets. An earlier article by the Christian Science Monitor’s Ben Arnoldy reports that the “No toilet, no bride” campaign by the government of the Haryana state has helped increase the percentage of homes with toilets from 5% to 60% in just four years. Apparently, making sanitation sexy can improve public health.