Trop Med Int Health 2014 Nov 26;19(11):1334-45. Epub 2014 Aug 26.
Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Objective: A large and growing proportion of the world's population rely on shared sanitation facilities that have historically been excluded from international targets due to concerns about acceptability, hygiene and access. In connection with a proposed change in such policy, we undertook this study to describe the prevalence and scope of households that report relying on shared sanitation and to characterise them in terms of selected socio-economic and demographic covariates.
Methods: We extracted data from the most recent national household surveys of 84 low- and middle-income countries from Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys. We describe the prevalence of shared sanitation and explore associations between specified covariates and reliance on shared sanitation using log-binomial regression.
Results: While household reliance on any type of shared sanitation is relatively rare in Europe (2.5%) and the Eastern Mediterranean (7.7%), it is not uncommon in the Americas (14.2%), Western Pacific (16.4%) and South-East Asia (31.3%), and it is most prevalent in Africa (44.6%) where many shared facilities do not meet the definition of 'improved' even if they were not shared (17.7%). Overall, shared sanitation is more common in urban (28.6%) than in rural settings (25.9%), even after adjusting for wealth. While results vary geographically, people who rely on shared sanitation tend to be poorer, reside in urban areas and live in households with more young children and headed by people with no formal education. Data from 21 countries suggest that most sharing is with neighbours and other acquaintances (82.0%) rather than the public.
Conclusions: The determinants of shared sanitation identified from these data suggest potential confounders that may explain the apparent increased health risk from sharing and should be considered in any policy recommendation. Both geographic and demographic heterogeneity indicate the need for further research to support a change in policies.