November 19 is the World Toilet Day highlighting the importance of toilets for health, hygiene, and safety. Open defecation poses a serious risk to public health as it can contaminate sources of drinking water. This contamination can lead to the spread of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery. Also people — particularly women and girls who practice open defecation — experience feelings of shame, loss of personal dignity, and increased safety risks.
Since 2000, the number of people who practice open defecation has reduced by 68 percent. Still, around 420 million people, that is 5 percent of the global population, are still defecating in fields, forests, bodies of water or other open spaces.
Open defecation is most concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. However, there has been marked shift in proportions: 67 percent of people practicing open defecation used to reside in South Asia (mainly India) and 17 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2000. But today, 44 percent are in South Asia and 47 percent are in Sub-Saharan Africa.