The provision of health sanitation is a key development intervention – without it, ill health dominates a life without dignity. Simply having access to sanitation increases health, well-being and economic productivity. Inadequate sanitation impacts individuals, households, communities and countries. Despite its importance, achieving real gains in sanitation coverage has been slow. Achieving the internationally agreed targets for sanitation and hygiene poses a significant challenge to the global community and can only be accomplished if action is taken now. Low-cost, appropriate technologies are available. Effective program management approaches have been developed. Political will and concerted actions by all stakeholders can improve the lives of millions of people in the immediate future.
Nearly 40 percent of the world’s population (2.4 billion) has no access to hygienic means of personal sanitation. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.8 million people die each year from diarrheal diseases, 200 million people are infected with schistosomiasis and more than 1 billion people suffer from soil-transmitted helminthes infections. A Special Session on Children of the United Nations General Assembly (2002) reported that nearly 5,500 children die every day from diseases caused by contaminated food and water because of health and sanitation malpractice.
Increasing access to sanitation and improving hygienic behaviors are keys to reducing this enormous disease burden. In addition, such changes would increase school attendance, especially for girls, and help school children to learn better. They could also have a major effect on the economies of many countries – both rich and poor – and on the empowerment of women. Most of these benefits would accrue in developing nations.
The global community has set ambitious targets for improving access to sanitation by 2015. Achieving these goals will have a dramatic impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people and will open the door to further economic development for tens of thousands of communities. Access to adequate sanitation literally signifies crossing the most critical