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Global practices, geographic variation, and determinants of child feces disposal in 42 low- and middle-income countries: An analysis of standardized cross-sectional national surveys from 2016 – 2020
Authors: Stephen G.Mugel, Thomas F. Clasen and ValerieBauza
Source: International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Volume 245; DOI:
Topic(s): GIS/GPS
Spatial analysis
Wealth Index
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: AUG 2022
Abstract: Background: Despite considerable progress improving water and sanitation access globally, unsafe child feces disposal remains common in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), posing an important health risk. The present study characterizes the current prevalence of child feces disposal practices and child latrine use across low- and middle-income countries and investigates determinants associated with appropriate disposal practices. Methods: Data for children ranging from 0 through 4 years of age were analyzed from standardized and nationally-representative surveys of 42 LMICs collected from 2016 to 2020 to assess child feces disposal practices. We report child feces disposal in three categories: disposal in any type of latrine, disposal in an improved latrine, and disposal through means other than in a latrine. Survey weighted multiple Poisson regression models were used to explore factors associated with these practices. Results: Data on 403,036 children (weighted N = 191 million) demonstrated that a minority (40.3%) of children have their feces disposed of in a latrine of any kind, and just 29% have feces disposed of in an improved latrine. Prevalence varied considerably by country and region. In adjusted analyses, both child feces disposal in any latrine and disposal in an improved latrine increased with child age, higher intra-country relative wealth, and urban living, and decreased with breastfeeding and shared sanitation facilities. Disposal in improved latrines additionally increased with access to higher levels of service for drinking water and higher mother's education. Nevertheless, the role of facility access alone was insufficient, as only about half of children with household access to any latrine or improved latrines had their feces disposed of in these facilities. Child latrine use among households with latrine access was also low and highly variable across countries. Conclusions: Children's feces in LMICs are infrequently disposed of in any latrine type, and even less frequently in improved latrines. In order to minimize health risks in LMICs, increased effort must be undertaken not just to increase sanitation coverage but to address these common barriers to safe child feces disposal and child latrine use.