If You Live in One of These 16 Countries, Your 'Bathroom' Is Probably Outdoors

About 2.5 billion citizens around the world lack access to proper sanitation, meaning they are forced to practice open defecation.
Apr 9, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Spot news stories on booming economies and think pieces on population growth—that’s what a quick Web search for “China” or “India” will get you. But according to data compiled by the World Health Organization/UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, the two nations should probably be known for something else as well: Of the handful of countries whose residents have the least access to toilets, India and China rank first and second.

An eyepopping 818 million people in India and 607 million people in China don’t have the kind of sanitation facilities (a toilet connected to a septic tank or sewer system) that most Americans take for granted. People from these two countries constitute about half of the 2.5 billion citizens around the world who practice open defecation—yes, that means going No. 2 in fields or on the street.

Things aren’t much better in other nations. Take Nigeria: Although the country has a $510 billion economy, the biggest in Africa, a staggering 103 million of its citizens also lack access to proper sanitation facilities.

The health consequences for those living without toilets are severe: About 700,000 children die annually from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and a lack of access to proper sanitation. That’s almost 2,000 kids a day.

The good news is that engineers and designers around the world are working to create practical sanitation solutions—water- and electricity-free toilets that don’t need a municipal sewer system connection to function. If these innovators’ efforts pay off, perhaps one day China and India will make headlines for the way they’re leading a sustainable toilet revolution.

Top Countries Without Sanitation

(Illustrated by Julie Teninbaum)