Bruce Gordon, Water and Sanitation Coordinator of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that one in seven people, mostly poor and living in rural areas, still defecated in the open.
He said by so doing it contaminated water, creating a breeding ground for diarrhea, cholera, dysentery and typhoid.
“If people don’t invest in sanitation the costs are going to be incredible and health is going to be a big issue,” he said.
“Extraordinary efforts need to be made now to take it to those remaining pockets of people who don’t access water and sanitation,” he added.
Gordon said inadequate water supply and sanitation results in annual economic losses of $260 billion.
He said investigation revealed that even though aid money for the sector was at an all time high, 1.8 billion people are exposed to contaminated water.
Gordon said most of the funds go towards investments in water and only a quarter to sanitation, while rural areas are often neglected.
He said money was not the only reason that one billion people, most of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, still take their private business outdoors.
Gordon said preventing children’s deaths and illness, privacy and safety for women, and economic and environmental benefits as some of the reasons to invest in sanitation.
“Water and sanitation and hygiene are fundamental pre-requisites to have in place not only for development, but to stop outbreaks of diseases like Ebola or cholera,” he said.
ack Sim, the Founder of the World Toilet Organisation, said in some societies open defecation was a cultural norm and even a social thing to do.
“People enjoy that social event, but they have to understand that the contaminated water eventually comes back as diseases to kill the children and to make people sick,” he said.
Sim said more than two billion people have gained access to clean water in the last two decades and almost two billion gained access to improved sanitation over the same period.
“Thanks to those gains, the number of children dying from diarrheal diseases fell from 1.5 million in 1990 to just above 600,000 in 2012,’’ he said.
However, he said hat insufficient financing and planning mean that the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of the population without access to toilets by 2015 will not be met