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One Billion People Still Poop Outdoors, UN Reports

Update Date: May 09, 2014 11:43 AM EDT

In order to reduce the spread of deadly and potentially fatal diseases, health experts have stressed the importance of keeping drinking water clean. Despite efforts to improve hygiene, especially in developing, low-income countries, experts from the United Nations (UN) reported that one billion people still defecate in public, which can soil water and endanger the public.

"There are so many latrines that have been abandoned, or were not used, or got used as storage sheds. We may think it's a good idea but if people are not convinced that it's a good idea to use a latrine, they have an extra room," said Rolf Luyendijk, a statistician at the U.N.'s children's fund UNICEF, reported by the New York Daily News.

The experts reported that even though some countries have made progress in stopping public defecation, other countries need an extra push. From 1990 to 2014, the global number of people who use the bathroom outdoors fell from 1.3 billion to one billion. However, in 26 countries located in sub-Saharan Africa, more people seem to be defecating in public. The country that had the highest rates was Nigeria with 39 million people defecating in public in 2012 compared to only 23 million back in 1990.

Open defecation means that instead of using toilets, people poop and pee in public areas that are not equipped to deal with the excrements. Once these excrements infect water, it can lead to the spread of diseases, such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid. These infections for children under five years old can be extremely fatal.

The experts added that in order to reduce these rates, countries must be make the practice unacceptable. Countries also have to find better ways of improving sanitation and providing clean places for people to use the bathroom.

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