Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five in the world. Around 1.5 million deaths each year - nearly one in five – are caused by diarrhea. It kills more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined.
Sanitation and proper hygiene are crucial to diarrhea prevention. It is estimated that improved sanitation facilities can result in an average reduction in cases of diarrhea of more than one-third. Washing hands with soap has been found to reduce diarrhea by more than 40%.
Halving the proportion of those globally without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation by 2015 is estimated to result in 272 million more school attendance days a year. The value of deaths averted, based on discounted future earnings, would amount to US$ 3.6 billion a year.
Only 63% of the world's population has access to improved sanitation - defined as a sanitation facility that ensures hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.
Improved sanitation facilities are estimated to result in an average reduction in cases of diarrhea of more than 33%.
2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation; 1.1 billion still practice open defecation.
Of the 60 million people added to the world's towns and cities every year, most move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities.