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Open defecation

A substantial acceleration is needed to end open defecation by 2030

Open defecation population ladder
Population practising open defecation by SDG region

Open defecation refers to the practise of defecating in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces. Defecating in the open is an affront to dignity and risk to children’s nutrition and to community health. The elimination of open defecation is recognized as a top priority for improving health, nutrition and productivity of developing country populations and is explicitly mentioned in SDG target 6.2.


Open defecation rates have been decreasing steadily. From 2000-2015, the number of people practising open defecation declined from 1,229 million to 892 million, an average decrease of 22 million people per year. All SDG regions saw a drop in the number of people practising open defecation, except for sub-Saharan Africa, where high population growth led to an increase in open defecation from 204 to 220 million, and in Oceania), where open defecation increased from 1 to 1.3 million. Nine out of ten people practising open defecation now live in just three regions. Ending open defecation by 2030 will require a substantial acceleration in current rates of progress, particularly in Central and Southern Asia, Eastern and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.