Health: A rural debt

Imagine that you need to go to the bathroom so much that your body cannot take it anymore. However, you are not at home, or in the office or college. What’s more, you’re not in town; you’re surrounded by trees, some wooden houses and yes, people are looking at you. You need an urgent bathroom. What are you going to do?

This question is being asked daily by 30 million Latin Americans who live in rural areas and do not have a toilet in their homes. Among the few options for them is the outdoor defecation or the use of outdoor latrines made of flimsy material. This situation is very much than those who live in cities. Here the coverage of basic and safe sanitation exceeds 80% of the population.

“3 out of 10 people in rural areas do not have safe sanitation.”

This is why the president of the Fifth Encuentro Latinoamericano de Agua y Saneamiento, -Latinosan-Yamileth Astorga Espeleta, mentioned during the April event in Costa Rica that “a lot of investment is being made in the urban and leaving still little investment in rural.” According to the data mentioned during this event, we would have to wait for the year 2080 for rural Latin America to have access to safe water and sanitation. This timeline is far removed from the Sustainable Development Goals that hope to end open defecation by 2030. 

How is Columbia doing?

More than 5 million Columbians do not have access to safe water or sanitation. While the use of toilets stands at 92%, it is 71% in rural areas. 

The situation is further exacerbated given the latest DANE report on multidimensional poverty which suggests that the rate of toilet usage is remaining stagnant, or even decreasing. 

“We would have to wait until 2080 for rural Latin America to have access to safe water and sanitation.”

According to the National Development Plan, the government’s goal is to reach 480,000 people with adequate solutions for wastewater management by 2022. This is inadequate if we take into account that we have more than 4 million in need. Independent of population growth, it would take 40 more years to meet the UN’s goal for sanitation services. 

We need more national and international cooperation and better information, but above all to include all the relevant parties, including the same communities that are struggling in order to reverse this trend and put an end to this problem. 

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