Improved Sanitation

Alice Hall-Partyka

The dataset used my visualizations is from the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. The data chosen for the visualizations is the percentage of populations with access to improved sanitation, by country and by WHO region, based on data from 2008. I used the map feature on Many Eyes to visualize the percentages by country. And, to visualize the dataset by WHO region, I created pie charts on Excel, a bar chart on Many Eyes, and a graphic on Paint. All four of my visualizations serve to emphasize the stark contrast in percentage with access to improved sanitation between various regions of the world. And all four visualizations can be understood by the average viewer, giving a simplified understanding of sanitation availability globally.

Figure 1: World Map

Percentage of Total Population with Access to Improved Sanitation by Country in 2008

The map is an effective tool for demonstrating the data, because, even though it very specifically uses country data, the map gives a holistic viewpoint of the sanitation data. Each country is shaded differently based on the percentage of each population with access to improved sanitation. Although the map shows the data individually by country, regional variation is apparent in the shading. For example, most of the countries with less than 60 percent of the population having access to improved sanitation are in Africa and Southeast Asia. And most of the countries with 100 percent of the population with access are in Western Europe and North America. It is the most informative of my visualizations, because it shows much more data by representing each country differently. The main limitation I found with the visualization was that I could not change the color of the maps and therefore am left with a bland color code. Still, I find this visualization to be very effective, because it shows the data spatially around the globe, as only a map can do.

Figure 2: Pie Charts Representing Proportion of Population with Access to Improved Sanitation by WHO Region in 2008

The second visualization that I have is of six pie charts that each stands for a World Health Organization region. The colored part of the pie represents the proportion of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities. The blank part is indicative of the proportion of the population without access to improved sanitation. This visualization is empowering as a comparison between regions, even though no numbers are provided. There is an obvious discrepancy between the sizes of the “pies” in various WHO regions and therefore indicates that some regions have a much higher percentage of population with access to improved sanitation facilities. It is a very simple visualization that an uninformed viewer could understand. Because this visualization was made on excel, I could use a variety of colors that would drawn in a viewer. I think the main weakness of the visualization is, since there are six regions, it is difficult to compare all six at once.

Figure 3: Bar Chart Representing Percentage of Population with Access to Improved Sanitation by Region in 2008

The bar chart gives a more quantitative comparison of the WHO regions than the pie chart, as there are numbers on the y-axis to indicate the percentage of population with access to improved sanitation. I made the bar chart on Many Eyes but then altered the visualization by using textboxes to label the regions and y-axis. I think the simple chart and the appealing colors make it easy to understand. The colors may draw in the reader to look at the chart. Although it is not a very complicated visualization, it effectively compares the regions and does not require much time for the reader to process the information.

Figure 4: Proportion of People in Africa with Access to Improved Sanitation in 2008

2 out of 3 people in Africa, cannot access improved sanitation as simple as this pit toilet.

The fourth figure represents solely the data from one WHO region in the form of a picture and brief statement. I chose to use the data from Africa, because it is the region with the lowest percentage of population with access to improved sanitation. For this visualization, I found a picture of a pit latrine that meets the World Health Organization’s criteria for improved sanitation. I thought the picture was very compelling, because, as students who live in the United States, the pit toilet looks so simple and unhygienic in comparison to our sanitation systems. I believe many people would be shocked that this would qualify as improved sanitation. The statement at the bottom emphasizes that two-thirds of the people in Africa cannot even access something so simple as this pit toilet. The limitation to this visualization is that I could only effectively emphasize one World Health Organization region and that the picture quality is not great. However, I think the bleak picture and simple statement are striking together, as it emphasizes just how stark the sanitation conditions are in Africa, if most people cannot even access something like the pit toilet in the picture.

Overall, my four visualizations are made to appeal to the general public, not a scientist or expert in the field. The dataset I used is mainly useful for comparative purposes, as the data includes only simple percentages of access to improved sanitation. But the four visualizations do have various functions in regards to their effect on the reader. The pie chart and bar graph most notably emphasize the data comparatively; the map provides the most information to the viewer; and the picture is the most compelling visualization. However, all four visualizations emphasize how certain regions are extremely more privileged in reference to sanitation than others, most notably Africa.

“WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation.” World Health Organizaiton and UNICEF, 2010. Web. 5 February 2012.


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