Worldwide 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. Spawning disease and deprivation on a massive scale, this silent crisis continues to reinforce a cycle of poverty among the marginalized, widening disparities between urban and rural, and rich and poor households. Sanitation is a part of the solution to break that cycle, and stop the spread of disease – a fact that is well known.
But while the knowledge and means exist to ameliorate the lives of those living without sanitation, political will, action, and investment are insufficient to the task. For this reason, WSSCC and partners organize regional conferences on sanitation and the hygienic behaviours associated with it.
Those invited include key government officials, sector professionals, members of civil society, donors, and development agencies. The conferences take place in the regions of Africa, east Asia, south Asia, and Latin America. Focus is on these regions because they bear the highest burden of people living without sanitation.
During the conferences, participants look for ways to accelerate national action to achieve and exceed sanitation targets in their respective regions. Policy-makers are lobbied throughout the conference and at the conclusion, country governments pledge to take steps to meet the targets through signed ministerial declarations. Commitments can range from creating budget lines for sanitation and hygiene, to promises to strengthen cooperation between countries and regionally.
All too frequently, however, these commitments are forgotten or only partially fulfilled. The real challenge remains translating the commitments into actions to ensure improved sanitation for all people. By organizing regional sanitation conferences every two or three years, WSSCC and its partners keep the spotlight trained on the plight of those 2.6 billion people without access to sanitation, and the government commitments made to help them.