Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
4 October 2011
A generation after man walked on the moon, a billion people on earth still defecate in the open and another billion use unsafe holes in the ground. Now sanitation is becoming much more prominent: as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said recently: “It is time to put sanitation and access to proper toilets at the centre of our development discussions.”
Some 500 activists, business leaders, health professionals, governmental officials and others will do just that by focusing on the topic at next week’s first-ever Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene (www.wsscc-global-forum.org) in Mumbai, India.
Arranged 9-14 October by the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Governments of India and Maharashtra, the Forum aims to highlight how to save millions of lives around the world through handwashing, how to build educational opportunities for teenage girls through separate latrines, and how to “invest in waste” through biogas-generating toilets and other entrepreneurial innovation.
Of the 2.6 billion people living without safe and clean toilets, roughly a third live in South Asia, a third in sub-Saharan Africa and a third in China. These people are unable to fulfil their daily needs with safety, convenience and dignity. There are good reasons to turn this situation around, including evidence that points to the negative economic impacts of poor sanitation.
“Poor sanitation is costing developing countries between 3 and 7% of GDP,” said Anna Tibaijuka, chair of WSSCC. “Improved access to toilets has the potential to reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity, increase earnings from tourism and promote greater educational attainment, especially among girls. When a school has separate toilets for girls, with doors that lock, their attendance rates improve, especially once they reach menstruation.”
“Governments of developing countries need to continue to place a high priority on supporting improved access to sustainable sanitation services, while prioritizing sector investments and providing a clear roadmap to ensure comprehensive coverage to the poor and underprivileged, in particular,” added Jon Lane, executive director of WSSCC.
He said one aim of the Forum is to help put sanitation higher at the national, regional and global political levels, in part by building links between practitioners and policymakers.