New Delhi, Oct 31 (UNI) Almost a third of the world population has no access to toilet, a privation that has dramatic consequences and leads to millions of deaths each year, said international experts at the four-day World Toilet Summit 2007, which began here today.
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam inaugurated the conference -- the biggest event in the field of sanitation -- having 'Toilet for All' as its theme.
''Diarrhoea, resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene, is responsible for the death of more than two million impoverished children each year,'' said Dr Kalam, addressing more than 400 health and sanitation experts from some 40 countries who are attending the event.
''Around 2.6 billion people, comprising one-third of the global population, have no access to toilets, and generate more than 200 million tones of excrement annually that is neither collected nor treated and presents a health risk,'' he observed.
The situation in India is worse. According to the WHO Report 2006, only 22 per cent of rural and 59 per cent of urban India has access to improved sanitation, the national average being 33 per cent only.
Dr Kalam said governments, corporates and NGOs would have to syngerise their efforts to fulfil the UN's Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation by 2015 and to provide 'Toilets fo All' by 2025.
The international experts estimate that 80 per cent of all sickness in the world can be attributed to unsafe water and sanitation. Yet the problem has not attracted the attention it deserves and is described as the 'orphan child' of the water sector, often under-explored and under-financed.
''It's one of those untold stories of the development sector,'' said Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh movement, which has organised the event in conjunction with the Singapore-based World Toilet Organisation and support from the Indian government.
It is for the first time that India is hosting this international summit. The earlier summits were held in Singapore (2001), South Korea (2002), Taiwan (2003), China (2004), Northern Ireland (2005) and Russia (2006).
Globally, 1099 millions people lack access to safe water. Of these, 125 million live in India. Also, 2600 million people defecate in the open whereas in India, 700 million people lack access to sanitation facilities and resort to defecate in the open, pointed out sanitation experts.
''One reason is the taboo part. You don't talk about these issues so easily, it's a private thing,'' lamented Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organisation.
However, Dr Pathak who has revolutionised toilet technology, liberated millions of scavengers and pioneered eco-friendly, cost-effective and people-friendly toilet system, noted with a hint of optimism that governments were now beginning to make the issue a priority.