Around the world, sanitation problems are the cause of many types of disease and death. The World Health Organization reports that problems associated with sanitation result in four percent of all deaths, and nearly six percent of all illnesses worldwide. Sanitation problems are particularly difficult for people with impaired immunity, the elderly, and the very young. Understanding sanitation problems is an important step in eliminating them.
The discharge of untreated waste into water systems is one of the most common sanitation problems. This creates multiple issues, such as polluting drinking water, creating a breeding ground for insects that spread disease, and exposing bathers to infectious disease. Contaminating the water sources also has an indirect affect on health by exposing foods, such as vegetables and fish, to the pathogens present in contaminated water. Not only does this contaminate the food supply, but it also reduces the amount of food available.
Contaminated wells are another sanitation problem. In areas that rely on hand dug wells, the typically shallow depth of the wells often allows for contamination from the groundwater. Overcrowded living conditions and the improper disposal of waste result in contaminated groundwater.
Along with lack of water for drinking and cleaning, a lack of toilets is a huge sanitation problem. Without running water there is no way to have a proper toilet, however even hand dug latrines and composting latrines can eliminate some of the problems associated with lack of toilets. With no toilets available, people have no choice but to defecate in the open. Not only does this create unpleasant living conditions, but also, in areas with a high population density, it contaminates the groundwater.
Water scarcity is another sanitation problem. When there is not much water available, it makes it difficult for people to wash their clothes, bodies, and even their hands. This lack of basic hygiene leads to the spread of disease as well as creating living conditions that make it difficult for the people in the area to maintain their dignity.
The World Health Organization reports that 2.4 billion people do not have access to basic levels of sanitation and the proper disposal of waste. This creates a problem for people that live in the area, as well as for animals and plants. The buildup of human waste negatively affects the environmental balance in the area and is difficult to resolve.