From: Anna Dolgov, Associated Press
Published September 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Two of Five Feople Around the World Without Proper Sanitation

UNITED NATIONS — Africa is hardest-hit by a global lack of basic sanitation that has left two out of every five people in the world without access to hygienic toilets, according to a new U.N. report.


The sanitation shortfall causes conditions such as diarrhea, which kills 1.5 million children under the age of 5 around the world every year, the "Progress for Children" report said.


Conditions are worst in Africa, and particularly devastating in Chad, where only 9 percent of the population has access to an "improved" toilet as simple as a pit latrine with a washable slab, according to the report Thursday by UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency.


In Niger, which is in the midst of a cholera outbreak following heavy rains and flooding, just 13 percent of the country has access to cleanable pit latrines or better, with numbers dropping to 4 percent in rural areas.


"It certainly is a contributing factor in the cholera outbreaks," said Vanessa Tobin, a deputy director at UNICEF.


Poor sanitation facilities can also spread intestinal worms and pneumonia.


"Young children are more vulnerable than any other age groups to the ill effects of unsafe water, insufficient quantities of water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene," UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman said.


The report used family surveys to track progress on water and sanitation improvements in the 14 years from 1990 to 2004. It measured the likelihood that countries will meet U.N. goals of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.


Many states are not on track to meet the goal. The proper sanitation figures in Chad -- similar to those of many nations plagued by armed conflicts -- are up just slightly, from 7 percent in 1990.


UNICEF wants to put better toilets and washrooms in schools "so that young people are actually learning the basics of good sanitation, good water practices, and hand-washing and that kind of thing," Veneman said.


Access to basic bathroom facilities such as flush toilets or latrines with cleanable slabs rose to 59 percent from 49 percent in 1990, short of U.N. targets, according to the report.


In sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi and Senegal are success stories, with improved sanitation facilities now reaching 74 percent and 67 percent of their respective populations.


Most of Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the Americas met U.N. sanitation benchmarks.


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Associated Press Writer Heidi Vogt in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.


Source: Associated Press


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