Exploring changes in open defecation prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa based on national level indices
About 215 million people in sub-Saharan Africa still defecate in fields, forests or out in the open, a practice that puts people and especially children at risk of diarrheal diseases. Public health experts are calling for an end to such practices by the year 2015 in order to protect the public health.
A new analysis by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) looks at how well countries in sub-Saharan Africa are doing when it comes to putting in basic sanitation facilities that would reduce this risky practice.
Jay Graham, PhD, MBA, MPH, an assistant professor of global environmental health at SPHHS and his co-authors looked at data on open defecation in 34 sub-Saharan African countries and estimated any changes in prevalence from 2005 through 2010. Deise Galan, MPH, was the lead author of the study and conducted much of the data analysis as part of her MPH thesis.
The authors found that only three countries were successful in reducing open defecation by 10 percent or more during the study’s time frame. And only one country, Angola, is on track to end the practice by the target date of 2015, according to the authors.
The authors also examined factors that might speed progress, finding that overseas development assistance might help low income sub-Saharan countries defray the cost of putting in place improved sanitation such as pit latrines or basic toilets. Additional research must be done to find other factors that might assist countries in meeting the public health goal of reducing open defecation, Graham and his colleagues said.