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Improving Our Sanitation

Around the world, access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is an ever growing public health focus as nearly half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to safe drinking water, toilet access, or resources to practice basic hygiene. The World Health Organization recognizes that there have been improvements in WASH services over the last ten years, but even that progress is “uneven and insufficient”.

WHO classifies sanitation facilities and drinking-water sources into three categories: Improved, Unimproved, and Shared and identifies which situations fit into these categories through two indicators – the proportion of population using safely managed sanitation services and the proportion of population using safely managed drinking services.

Let’s break it down and discover what these categories mean. To begin, Unimproved Sanitation facilities do not ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact and include pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines and bucket latrines. Most of these facilities are found in African and South East Asian regions which is a huge disparity for WASH services. Also included in Unimproved Sanitation is open defecation in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water, or other open spaces or disposal of human feces with other solid waste. This instance is one that many members in our community face on a daily basis as a result of insufficient access to public toilets.

According to WHO, Unimproved Sanitation facilities provide the most risk for health issues such as contracting diarrheal diseases, emergence of antimicrobial resistance, the re-emergence of cholera hotspots and long term threats from climate change. It is estimated that nearly 1.4 million deaths could've been prevented with better methods of sanitation. Children are among the most susceptible to these fecal diseases and in fact, they account for 7.6% of all deaths in children under the age of 5 worldwide.

On the other end of the sanitation spectrum, we have Improved Sanitation facilities which ensure the separation of human excreta from human contact. These facilities include, but are not limited to, flush or pour-flush toilets to either a piped sewer system or a septic tank, a pit latrine, a ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, a pit latrine with slab or finally, a composting toilet.

Lastly, Shared Sanitation facilities mean exactly what it sounds like: they include Improved Sanitation facilities that are shared by two or more households. These include public restrooms, school restrooms, office restrooms, or any sanitation area that is shared by a group of people.

Toilet Equity Toilets are a Shared Improved Sanitation facility, providing a solution to the problem of Unimproved Sanitation facilities in Western Colorado such as open defecation in or around our Colorado River corridor and the disposal of human waste with other solid waste. Toilet Equity toilets aim to provide equitable toilet access to a wide population of people habitating in the Grand Valley with the mission of reducing fecal transmitted diseases and improving the health of our environment and our community.

-Avery Pope, Board Member

Do you know of a location that is in need of a shared improved sanitation facility? Check out our Hosting page for more information or send us an email to give us your idea!

This post was originally published in our March 2024 newsletter.

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