These statistics clearly reflect a widespread health crisis, but they also have severe socio-economic impact as well - more than $200 billion is lost every year due to health care costs, decreased income and productivity.
No Sewage Systems
In many areas there is no access to a plumbed sewage system or there is a lack of sewage systems all together. The modern sewer systems were a product of the Industrial Revolution, however, they are not always the solution for the world we live in today.
Firstly, they rely on a steady supply of water - which we know is not unlimited. In fact, the UN estimates that by 2030, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas.
Secondly, it isn’t easy to retroactively install sewage networks in dense, urban areas. Beyond the difficulty of digging below a city’s foundations, it’s expensive work - to facilitate, and then maintain.
Nowhere To Go
People’s only choices are open-defecation, public pit latrines or domestic toilets which empty out directly into rivers/land. All of these have their dangers: pit latrines are often open public spaces, making it difficult and dangerous for people to use, in particular women and children. These also must be emptied by hand with someone having to go into the pit and dig the faecal sludge out and then dispose of it. Toilets which empty into fresh waterways and onto land contaminate and spread diseases.
Mountains of Untreated Waste
It is not enough to just provide a safe and hygienic place for the most fundamental human need. Safe disposal of waste also needs to be addressed as currently 60% of the world's faecal sludge is disposed of unsafely. That's enough to fill Wembley stadium over 400 times. Every. Year.
The Scarcity of Water
Engineers of the 19th century locked our process of excrement removal into sewer pipes and treatment plants. This Victorian solution hasn’t aged well, not least because it relies on a steady supply of water to flush waste down the toilet and to treat it. This once commodity item is becoming and increasingly scarce resource across the plant. The UN estimates that by 2030, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas.