More than 2 million people still need toilets
(KPL) Over 2 million people, mostly in rural and remote areas across the country, are lacking toilets and as a result, open defecation remains a hygienic challenge, according to relevant authorities.
At a meeting to mark World Toilet Day (19 November) under the theme "Equality and Dignity," attendees heard that the sanitation system is greatly lacking and diarrhea ranks third as a cause of premature death, especially among children.
Diarrhea remains a health challenge due to the lack of access to clean water and healthcare. It negatively affects economic development in the country, and is responsible for a budget loss of 5 trillion kip (US$621 million), equivalent to 5.6% per cent of Gross Domestic Product, according to the World Bank.
The government has ambitious plans to reduce open defecation in rural areas to 35 percent by 2016 and integrates information about sanitation into its food and nutrition program designed for 2014-2020.
"There are 2.5 billion people around the world with no access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, with dramatic consequences for human health, dignity, security, the environment, and social and economic development," the United Nations says on its website.
"Equality, Dignity, and the Link Between Gender-Based Violence and Sanitation" is the theme for this year's World Toilet Day, which seeks to put a spotlight on the threat of sexual violence that women and girls face due to loss of privacy as well as the inequalities that are present in usability. Toilets are generally inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly, and women and girls requiring facilities to manage menstrual hygiene.
With the tagline "We Can't Wait,"the Day is an opportunity to inspire action and underscore the urgency needed to end open defecation, especially for women and girls who are particularly vulnerable.
As the sanitation target is the most lacking target of the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, on behalf of the Secretary?General, launched a campaign earlier this year to break the silence on open defecation and spur dialogue as part of the UN Call to Action on Sanitation.