New Internationalist

PHOTO ESSAY: World governments’ broken sanitation pledge stinks

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On World Toilet Day, 2.5 billion people still lack the most basic of human needs, reports Jameela Freitas.

Access to adequate sanitation is still a pressing problem for the world’s poor.

The first UN World Toilet Day was held on 19 November 2013 to highlight the effects of poor sanitation and hygiene.

WaterAid/Benedicte Desrus
Christine Mbabazi, whose son died of cholera, sits outside her house located at the bottom of a gully which floods with rubbish and human waste when it rains, Bwaise slum, Kawempe District, Kampala, Uganda. WaterAid/Benedicte Desrus

2,000 children die every day from diarrhoea caused by diseases caused from poor sanitation.

In India, 620 million people defecate in the open, the highest number in the world as half of all households are without functioning toilets.

WaterAid/Anna Kari
70 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to a toilet, and a lack of this service (alongside unsafe drinking water) claims the lives of nearly half a million people on the continent. WaterAid/Anna Kari

The lack of sanitary provision has a double impact on women who are more likely to be attacked and raped if they have to walk away from the safety of their home to go to the toilet.

Neglected sanitation affects health, work, schooling and women’s safety and exacerbates the cycle of poverty and suffering.

WaterAid/Tom Van Cakenberghe
WaterAid believes that sanitation should be integrated into education policy to ensure that all schools have adequate facilities including hand washing facilities and separate toilets for boys and girls with access for students with disabilities. WaterAid/Tom Van Cakenberghe

A new report published on 18 November by WaterAid entitled ‘We Can’t Wait’ puts forward a number of recommendations such as urging governments to prioritize the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation by increasing funding to the sector and to ensure that the most marginalized and vulnerable people are served.

WaterAid/Anna Kari
Madeleine Leonie Razafindramasy, 27, and baby Franco, outside their newly installed hygienic toilet, bought from a 'sanimarket', Miandrivazo, Madagascar. WaterAid/Anna Kari

The report also recommends that the post-2015 development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals needs to address water, sanitation and hygiene as priority issues, and work towards gradually reducing and eventually eliminating inequalities in access.

WaterAid also believe that sanitation should be integrated into education policy to ensure that all schools have adequate facilities including hand washing facilities and separate toilets for boys and girls with access for students with disabilities.

WaterAid/GMB Akash/Panos
Shobita Das' daughter Puspits, 4, does not have access to safe water, Sylhet, Bangladesh. WaterAid/GMB Akash/Panos

‘At the turn of the millennium, world leaders promised to halve the proportion of people living without access to a basic toilet by 2015. At current rates of progress, around half a billion people will have to wait another decade before they get this basic service they were promised’, says Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid. ‘Every hour 70 women and girls die from diseases brought about from a lack of access to sanitation and water. We can and should be doing better – it is basic services we are talking about that can transform lives.’

WaterAid/Germain Kiemtoghe
Aminata Rabo and her children, with water containers. She lost a son to chronic diarrhoea and a daughter to malaria, Roumtenga, province of Non-Gremasson, Burkina Faso. WaterAid/Germain Kiemtoghe

‘Sanitation and hygiene are motors which drive health, social and economic development around the world. An environment that lacks sanitation and clean water is an environment where achieving other development goals is an impossible dream’, adds Chris Williams, the Executive Director of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. ‘The time to act is now’.

Find out more about WaterAid’s work.

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