Water Sanitation Health

Sanitation challenge: Turning commitment into reality


Providing adequate sanitation will have profound implications for human health and poverty alleviation. The global community has set ambitious targets for improving access to sanitation by 2015. Achieving these goals will have a dramatic impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people and will open the door to further economic development for tens of thousands of communities. Access to adequate sanitation literally signifies crossing the most critical barrier to a life of dignity and fulfilment of basic needs.

The 12th meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development provides a key forum to discuss actions that governments must take to turn commitments on sanitation and hygiene into reality. This document provides examples of essential steps that national and local governments must take now to improve sanitation and hygiene coverage. Real progress requires concerted efforts from all actors – national and local governments; communities; households; entrepreneurs; and international organisations – all working together to achieve the internationally agreed goals and targets. Small steps can lead to big changes. Change starts with political will and the desire to improve peoples’ lives. The time to act is now!

In December 2003, the United Nations System created UN-Water as the interagency coordinating mechanism for water-related activities. This report – produced by WHO, UNDESA, UNICEF, HABITAT and UNEP/GPA – is a product of that coordination.