1 gram of human feces may have 1 million bacteria

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2010 02:42 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2010 01:12 AM

Or why the world must address bad hygiene, unsafe water

MANILA, Philippines - Sanitation, water and hygiene are among the "forgotten foundations of health," causing millions of children to die every year, studies showed.

Four papers released by leading medical journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine revealed that unsafe sanitation and water, as well as bad hygiene, lead to the death of more than 2 million kids annually or almost 20% of all child deaths worldwide.

Citing the study, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said almost one-fifth of the world's population still defecate in the open in 2010, with 2.6 billion people not having access to a basic toilet.

About 884 million people, meanwhile, don't have access to safe drinking water.

"Children are dying every day from diseases such as diarrhea, even though we know how to prevent them," said Clarissa Brocklehurst, chief of water and sanitation for UNICEF.

She continued," We must work hand in hand -- health professionals alongside engineers -- to ensure that improvements in water supply, sanitation and hygiene reach everyone."

UNICEF noted that diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and other diseases can easily be prevented with cheap and proven interventions such as pit latrines and hand-washing with soap.

Despite this, progress has been "painfully slow" in many developing countries, the organization said.

Given this, the PLoS study emphasized the need for:

- an international commitment to universal access to hygiene, sanitation and water;

- better targeting of aid for sanitation and water to where it's needed: at least half of all aid for sanitation and water to go to low-income countries;

- all schools to be constructed with provision for every child to have access to safe hygiene, sanitation and water.

The international toilet day is celebrated every November 19 to raise awareness on the global sanitation problem.

According to UNICEF, one gram of human feces may contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs.