The first time I saw open defecation was in a slum in Delhi. I was taken aback. I had always heard about open defecation, but until that point I had never seen it and couldn’t imagine it happening in an overly crowded urban area. It was also at that moment that I knew I had to learn as much as possible about the ways in which people use the bathroom, if they have one at all.
2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation and 1 billion people do not have access to a bathroom and must resort to the undignified practice of open defecation. There are 7 billion people on the planet.
Women who must defecate in the open and who also have to use the community toilets are at increased risk of violence and rape.
When I visit communities and families in low-income countries I always look for toilets and latrines to see the conditions in which people relieve themselves. Below are some photos of toilets I took in India, Ethiopia, Philippines, and South Africa.
Photo: A premature baby is shown in the postnatal ward at Cama Hospital, a major hospital for women and children, in Mumbai, India. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Premature births are now the number one killer of babies globally. Of the 6.3 million children under five who died last year, 1.1 million of them died due to complications from premature births. Most of these deaths occured within the first month of life, according to new research published in The Lancet.
“This marks a turning of the tide, a transition from infections to neonatal conditions, especially those related to premature births, and this will require entirely different medical and public health approaches,” says Joy Lawn, M.D., Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a member of the research team and a long-term advisor to Save the Children. “The success we’ve seen in the ongoing fight against infectious diseases demonstrates that we can also be successful if we invest in prevention and care for preterm birth.”
Today is the the fourth World Prematurity Day, a global awareness campaign that focuses on the number of newborns that die every year and ways in which we can help those numbers decline. With heightened attention on premature births it is only a matter of time before global prematurity rates improve just as the overall child mortality statistics have improved steadily since 1990.
Merida, Philippines – I met Jocelyn Pingos, 27, in Merida, Leyte on a bright, sunny tropical day in the Philippines. A mother of four, Jocelyn sat outside her local health center and waited patiently to have her youngest, Lenith, 10 months, looked at because of a nagging cough. Her second youngest, Jelenia, 3, was also with her. Jocelyn’s other children who are 9 and 6 were attending school.
When Jocelyn delivered Lenith earlier this year, she and her husband decided that she should have a tubal ligation two months after her delivery.
“I have no plans to have any more children,” Jocelyn said.
Jocelyn delivered her two youngest, Jelenia and Lenith, at the local hospital. Her two oldest were delivered at home. “For the first two, the midwife came to my home,” Jocelyn remembered. “The midwife wasn’t available for the last two.”
“We are very lucky the storm surge didn’t really touch my town,”said Manuel Boy’ Sia Que, the mayor of Dulag municipality. “We only had one-half to one meter storm surge.”
In Ormoc, a city about an hour and a half from Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities during Typhoon Haiyan is also like another nearby city, Dulag. Ormoc didn’t get the huge storm surge like Tacloban that took thousands of lives, but they did bear the brunt of the torrential winds.
Elsa Morales lost everything during the storm. A single mother, her husband left her in 2005. In 2009 World Vision gave her a pig to provide a livelihood for her and her four children. She has been raising pigs organically ever since by feeding them natural plants instead of commercial feeds and creating her own fertilizers.
At everyone’s most basic level, we all want somewhere to lay our head every night. Filipinos living in the path of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan’s early morning storm surge and over 300km/hour winds lost everything within a 30-minute span, including their homes, and many, sadly, lost loved ones.
Those tracking the storm before it hit on November 8, 2013 projected that Typhoon Haiyan would reach the islands by 9 AM, but it sped up and reached landfall around 5 AM, just as everyone was sleeping. No one knew Haiyan would be as powerful as it was.
After the storm, entire families were relegated to living in tents until temporary shelter kits could be delivered. Some live in makeshift and patchwork homes built from scraps even today, and some still do not have homes to call their own a year after Haiyan. And yet, there are some families who have been given the keys to a new home, one that was creatively designed to withstand high winds, rain, and – yes – even typhoons.