Sanitation challenge: Turning commitment into reality
“We shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any of the other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care.”
-- Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General
The provision of sanitation is a key development intervention – without it, ill-health dominates a life without dignity. Simply having access to sanitation increases health, well-being and economic productivity. Inadequate sanitation impacts individuals, households, communities and countries. Despite its importance, achieving real gains in sanitation coverage has been slow. Scaling up and increasing the effectiveness of investments in sanitation need to be accelerated to meet the ambitious targets agreed at Johannesburg.
In response to global demand, this document summarises the key thinking about how these targets can be met. It suggests actions that can be taken at different levels and by different actors to change the pace of sanitation improvement. Achieving the internationally agreed targets for sanitation and hygiene poses a significant challenge to the global community and can only be accomplished if action is taken now. Low-cost, appropriate technologies are available. Effective programme management approaches have been developed. Political will and concerted actions by all stakeholders can improve the lives of millions of people in the immediate future.
Nearly 40% of the world’s population (2.4 billion) have no access to hygienic means of personal sanitation (Figure 1).1 Globally, WHO estimates that 1.8 million people die each year from diarrhoeal diseases, 200 million people are infected with schistosomiasis and more than 1 billion people suffer from soil-transmitted helminth infections. A Special Session on Children of the United Nations General Assembly (2002) reported that nearly 5,500 children die every day from diseases caused by contaminated food and water.
Increasing access to sanitation and improving hygienic behaviours are key to reducing this enormous disease burden. In addition, such changes would increase school attendance, especially for girls, and help school children to learn better. They could also have a major effect on the economies of many countries – both rich and poor – and on the empowerment of women. Most of these benefits would accrue in developing nations.
1 Key information sources: WHO/UNICEF (2000). Global water supply and sanitation assessment 2000 report. Geneva, World Health Organization/United Nations Children’s Fund; Prüss A et al (2002). Estimating the burden of disease from water, sanitation, and hygiene at a global level, Environmental Health Perspectives, 110 (5): 537-542.
This document describes the following key areas where action can be taken today to translate global commitments on sanitation and hygiene into reality:
- Making political commitments
- Legislation and regulations
- Building capacity to make a difference
- Getting sanitation and hygiene right
- Mobilising financial resources
- Paying attention to gender and equity
- Supporting small-scale entrepreneurs
- Focusing on youth and using education
- Taking responsibility for the environment
- Monitoring progress
- Making information flow and strengthening partnerships
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ISBN 92 5 159162 5
© WHO, 2004
Electronic access to English version only.