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 2000-2020, the number of people practising open defecation declined from 1,229 million to 494 million, an average decrease of 37 million people per year. All SDG regions saw a drop in the number of people practising open defecation, except for Oceania, where open defecation increased from 1.1 to 1.8 million. In 2020, more than 5% of the population still practised open defecation in 55 countries. Nine out of ten people practising open defecation lived in two regions: Central and Southern Asia (233 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (197 million).