On World Toilet Day, new WHO/UN-Water Report reveals vital need for information on sanitation


Today, 1,000 children under five years of age will die from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water. Read the Secretary-General’s message here.

Only around 30 countries have so far committed to ending open defecation, the Government of Nepal is one, and has pledged to end open defecation by 2025. The Global Sanitation Fund’s support to the Nepal national hygiene and sanitation programme is featured in UN Stories.

This is only the second year the UN is leading the celebration of World Toilet Day, recently created in an effort to raise the profile of a neglected issue. The MDG indicator on sanitation, ‘proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility’ is the most behind in terms of achieving the target.

The good news is that international aid for water, sanitation and hygiene increased by 30% from 2010 to 2012, up to $10.9 billion. That’s according to the 2014 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) published by WHO and UN Water, with support from WSSCC.

In order to reach the 1 billion people on the planet who have no household toilet and defecate in the open, good data is vital. This is because many of the people who live without a toilet are the poorest in society, live in remote areas, or are discriminated against because of ethnicity, gender, age or disability and improved monitoring and evaluation will help to identify them so they are included in development programmes.

WSSCC Executive Director Chris Williams says. “As we identify the financial and human resource gaps, governments and donors can be more strategic in supporting policies and in implementing sustainable programmes to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation for all people.”

The development community calls for programmes to be based on evidence. By reporting on the financial and human resources, this report helps track funding in-country and a series of country-level reports are being issued in a series up to January 2015.

In developing countries, there is a huge financing gap between budgets and plans, with 80% of countries indicating insufficient financing for the water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector.

The behavior change approach promoted by the Global Sanitation Fund is a low-cost investment – from $5 to $20 per latrine, a cost shared with community members who build the toilets themselves. A small investment with a good return – the report states $1 has a $4.3 return on investment in terms of health care costs.

Only 21 of the 93 countries evaluated in the GLAAS report have an implemented policy for sanitation in schools, despite strong evidence to show that sanitation is a strong factor in school attendance, particularly for menstruating girls.

Almost 2 billion people are drinking faecally contaminated water – in strong contrast to the reliable, continuous and safe drinking water that comes out of the taps in the homes, offices and public gathering places in the developed world. The GLAAS report explains that although 748 million people lack access to an improved water source, the number is much higher for those whose source is polluted by poor sanitation.

Click here for the full GLAAS 2014 report.