Sanitation goal needs fresh impetus

Posted: 18 November 2008

World Toilet Day tomorrow (November 19) is a reminder that over 2.6 billion people lack any form of 'improved' sanitation; one-sixth of the world's population get their water from sources contaminated by human and animal faeces; half of all people in developing countries have an illness related to sanitation and water quality; and every six seconds, a child dies of diarrhoea.

Washing hands: schoolchildren in Vietnam
Washing hands: schoolchildren in Vietnam
Hand-washing prevents sickness: schoolchildren in Vietnam. Photo © UNICEF/HQ99-0812/Lemoyne
Sanitation has enormous economic, social and ecological implications' especially in developing countries. It and safe drinking water are crucial in the fight to end world poverty. But the Millennium Development Goal to halve the amount of people without access to basic sanitation is arguably the goal farthest from being reached, says the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

Paul Horton, Director of International Development, at CIWEM says: "In the International Year of Sanitation it is imperative that the sanitation target set under MDG Seven is reviewed and an honest assessment made of the progress, or lack, towards achieving the aim of reducing by half the number of people without access to sanitation.

"The definition of basic sanitation in the target should be enhanced to incorporate the standards used by the Joint Monitoring Programme and, linked to it, there should be an audit process to ensure that data collected is of robust quality.

"At a time when the world is facing ever more volatile weather systems due to climate change, access to proper sanitation is a fundamental human right, one that is in danger of never being met unless the MDG target is reviewed and a realistic plan of action is developed."

Related links:

Sanitation Year highlights success - and failure