The United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) says despite significant and encouraging declines in open defecation since 1990, 1.1 billion people (15 per cent of the world's population) still practice it.
The majority of people practising open defecation estimated at 949 million live in rural areas, according to a Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation report by UNICEF and WHO. It was entitled: "Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update," which was made available to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday.
According to the report, open defecation in rural areas persists in every region of the developing world, even among those who have otherwise reached high levels of improved sanitation use.
The proportion of rural dwellers still practising open defecation is nine per cent in Northern Africa and 17 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Open defecation is highest in rural areas of Southern Asia, where it is practised by 55 per cent of the population. The report noted that open defecation is however, decreasing in all regions, in both urban and rural areas. It said about 234 million fewer rural dwellers were practising open defecation in 2010 than in 1990.
Those who continue to do so tend to be concentrated in few countries, including India, where 626 million people practise open defecation constituting 59 per cent of the global total. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of people using some sort of unimproved sanitation than any region and this proportion is growing, suggesting that the demand for sanitation is on the rise.
Globally, the number of people using shared sanitation is growing. It held that the number of users has increased by 425 million since 1990, increasing from six per cent of the global population to 11 per cent in 20 years.
It said the use of shared sanitation is most evident in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Asia, and is particularly common in certain sub-Saharan African countries, including Ghana, Congo and Gabon. The report noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, 45 per cent of the population uses either shared or unimproved facilities, and an estimated 25 per cent practise open defecation.
Sub-Saharan African has not made much progress in reducing open defecation with the figure hovering around only 11 per cent since 1990.The number of people practising open defecation has increased by 33 million. The report reiterated that most of the countries with low sanitation coverage are in sub-Saharan Africa.
It said a significant number of rural dwellers have moved away from open defecation, doing so at a higher rate than urban dwellers. In 2010, 105 million people practised open defecation in urban areas, representing three per cent of the urban population.
Large parts of the developing world have sanitation coverage of 50 per cent or less in rural areas, including much of sub-Saharan Africa and a number of populous countries in Southern Asia. GNA