(Vice News) – An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation around the world, and more than a billion defecate openly. Some 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year lead to more than 2 million deaths, mainly among children. That’s more than AIDS and malaria combined.
In India, where 550 million people practice open defecation, 45 percent of children are stunted. The culprit in most cases is poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water. Studies show that lack of toilets and the resulting spread of disease is literally making Indian children shorter.
“When people don’t use any form of toilet, they go into fields, roadside ditches or along railroad tracks,” Thorsten Kiefer, founder and CEO of Wash United, a German NGO that works to increase access to sanitation, told VICE News. “It means it’s impossible to effectively separate human beings from their own shit. People step in their own shit and carry it in their house, flies land on their shit — people end up eating and drinking each other’s shit.”