October 20, 2008

Study: Toilets, Safe Water Can End Poverty

Installing toilets worldwide and ensuring safe water supplies would do more to end crippling poverty than any other measure, researchers in Japan contend.

Researchers at United Nations University in Tokyo said better water and sanitation reduces poverty in three ways -- business opportunities are created for local entrepreneurs; significant savings are achieved in the public health sector; and individual productivity is greater in contributing to local and national economies.

"Water problems, caused largely by an appalling absence of adequate toilets in many places, contribute tremendously to some of the world's most punishing problems, foremost among them the inter-related afflictions of poor health and chronic poverty," Zafar Adeel, director of the United Nations University's Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health.

"Poor health, especially chronic illness, can force a household below the poverty threshold," the analysis said.

"This becomes self-perpetuating as a poverty-stricken household is more prone to ill health. Low education levels and lack of knowledge further maintain this cycle, as understanding links between hygiene and waterborne diseases tend to come more easily to households with higher education levels."

The finding were released Monday at the start of a two-day United Nations University hosted international meeting in Hamilton, Ontario.