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The Importance Of Sanitation And Hygiene In Developing Countries

By Lucy Clarke · March 30, 2022
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Why is Hygiene Important?

The UN has recognised sanitation as a human right, with Clean Water and Sanitation for all being their Sustainable Development Goal #6, and yet there is much to do. At present this aim won’t be achieved until 2107 – a whole 77 years behind schedule.

The importance of sanitation and hygiene is vast. The pandemic has shown us just how necessary it is, with constant hand washing, masks, and sanitisers in every pocket, the reality of infection hit home for all of us. And yet, we’re extremely privileged compared to the three billion in the world whose lives are at risk because they do not have access to clean water and soap - the basics that we take for granted.

Those most affected by lack of sanitation includes those that live in low-income urban slums, disaster-prone and rural areas. These groups are more at risk of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio and stunting. 

Lack of hygiene and sanitation particularly affects the lives of girls and women in these areas. With no proper toilet facilities, the women often choose to defecate in the privacy of the night, yet this can lead to an increased risk of harassment or sexual assault.

Furthermore, for girls in these areas, where periods still remain taboo, a lack of sanitation means many drop out of school once their periods start. This leads to a greater rift between the girls and boys, with girls unable to realise their academic potential. The human cost of poor sanitation and hygiene is great, as is the economic cost, thought to amount to more than 5% of these countries' GDP.

Benefits of Community Hygiene

Community hygiene helps to prevent diseases from spreading through neighbourhoods, schools, office space, etc. When hygiene practices are implemented they help to create healthier communities. Saving the lives of the most vulnerable, such as children, whose second leading cause of death worldwide is diarrhoea. Most of these deaths are caused by a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene, alongside unsafe water, and are entirely preventable. Clean water is the basis of hygiene, but communities can facilitate certain hygiene behaviours in order to improve sanitation and health.

These hygiene practices include:

  • Handwashing with soap, after toilet use and before meals

  • The safe management of water, from source till consumption

  • The safe dealing of human faeces through the building of latrines

  • The safe preparation of food and meals

  • Providing sanitary items to those with periods

  • Appropriate management of waste

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