Silent Emergency: Providing access to sanitation for all

saniOriginally published on the United Nations Environment Programme website

Providing access to sanitation for all is both the key public health challenge of our time and a moral obligation

Two and a half billion people live without access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, 1 billion currently defecate in the open and 748 million live without safe drinking water. The world may have 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions, but only 4.5 billion people have access to a toilet.

This is a silent health emergency of enormous proportions. But the challenge is not only a moral one. Sanitation and hygiene are engines that drive health, social and economic development, and contribute to a cleaner environment. Continue reading

Global declaration calls for WASH targets post-2015

Written by WSSCC and originally published in the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network

First Ladies and leading international women call for water, sanitation and hygiene to feature in the sustainable development goals

(Left to right) Geeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director (programmes), Unicef; Alice Albright, CEO, Global Partnership for Education; Gertrude Maseko, First Lady of Malawi; Voahangy Rajaonarimampianina, First Lady of Madagascar; Dr Kamal Kar, chairman, CLTS Foundation; Junaid Ahmad, senior director, World Bank Group on Water Global Practice. Photograph: WSSCC

(Left to right) Geeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director (programmes), Unicef; Alice Albright, CEO, Global Partnership for Education; Gertrude Maseko, First Lady of Malawi; Voahangy Rajaonarimampianina, First Lady of Madagascar; Dr Kamal Kar, chairman, CLTS Foundation; Junaid Ahmad, senior director, World Bank Group on Water Global Practice. Photograph: WSSCC

A declaration on sanitation and hygiene was launched for World Earth Day. Launched by the Global Poverty Project, an anti-poverty youth advocacy group, the declaration was signed by 44 influential women from global leadership, media, and powerful organisations around the world.

The declaration calls on politicians and decision-makers in the health sector to recognise the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and to commit to improving access for all those living without access to clean water and adequate sanitation.

Specifically, the declaration stipulates that the sustainable development goals must include targets and indicators aimed at:

  • Ensuring universal and sustainable access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene in every home, school and health facility.
  • Ending open defecation by 2030.
  • Reducing the amount of untreated faecal waste released into the environment
  • Linking water, sanitation and hygiene access to outcomes in related areas, such as universal health coverage, reduced child mortality and increased gender equality and women’s empowerment.

WSSCC was instrumental in securing commitments from many of these famous ladies, in order to advance the agenda of global development and secure commitments for the 2.5 billion people living without access to improved sanitation, the 1 billion people who currently defecate in the open each day, and the 748 million people who live without access to clean water.

Led by the First Lady of Malawi, Her Excellency Gertrude Maseko Mutharika, and the First Lady of Madagascar, Her Excellency Voahangy Rajaonarimampianina, the declaration outlines why water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are so important for women all around the world.

Many notable policymakers and leaders attended the unveiling of the declaration at the National Geographic Society in Washington DC on 16 April, including the First Ladies of Malawi and Madagascar, Isha Sesay of CNN International, Chris Williams of WSSCC, Kamal Kar of the CLTS Foundation, and Alice Albright of the Global Partnership for Education.

How a clean toilet helped Madame Metty run a successful business

Written by WSSCC & originally published on Global Citizen

Madame Metty runs a food stall in Ampasimbe Manantsatrana in the east of Madagascar. She serves coffee, cakes and light meals to her customers in a seated area in the front. Out back, she has a brand new toilet of the best quality possible for use by her customers.


“I sell food and I was worried that the chickens would run into the basic latrine, which was in bad shape, and bring feces into the kitchen.” A community-led total sanitation triggering by the Global Sanitation Fund helped Madame Metty understand that the health hazards for her and her customers could only be reduced if she owned a clean and well-built toilet, breaking the bad cycle of fecal contamination. In December 2012, she decided to take matters in her own hands and built a latrine. A mason from this commune dug the pit and it cost her 400,000 Ariary (around $180) to build. Malagasy women are known to their friends by their first born child’s name, so Madame Metty is also called “Maman de Zina” and that’s also the name of her food stall. It’s a popular place in town, and now even more so with the improved facilities. The mayor of Ampasimbe, Mr. Jacob Honoré says the whole town has changed in recent times: “Before when you entered the village you smelt poop. That’s the sign, now there is no smell anymore.” Continue reading

A village in Malawi takes action to end open defecation

Written by WSSCC & originally published on Global Citizen


In this village close to Lake Malawi, a lack of decent toilets means that people have to do their business in the bush.

But, with the help of a trained health worker like Singo Katanga, communities can improve the sanitation in their own villages.


The Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) in Malawi has enabled more than 153,000 people to access toilets. The GSF pays for Singo and other’s training, using a proven method to improve sanitation known as Community-led total sanitation (CLTS). CLTS changes behavior by shifting mindsets – to focus the desire for a sanitation system, and lead to action. CLTS emerged in Bangladesh in the early 2000s. Developed by Dr. Kamal Kar of the CLTS Foundation, it is a participatory answer to traditionally subsidized sanitation programs that have not succeeded in getting people to want, build, pay for, and use latrines.

Singo knows that behavior change starts with individuals, but that it works best when the entire community commits to ending open defecation. Here is how Singo transforms a village to take action – in 10 steps:

Step 1 – Drawing a Map of the Village

Singo (center) arrives in the village with the goal of raising good hygiene awareness in a process known as ‘triggering.’ She gets villagers to draw a map of the area, showing main features such as the road and the river.

malawi-takes-action-2 Continue reading

Top water and sanitation projects awarded at UN Headquarters

The Water for Life Award Winners 2015  From left: Jorge Miguel Samek, Director General Itaipu Brazil; Guy Laliberte, founder Cirque du Soleil; Catharine Bachand, CEO ONE DROP; Nelton Friedrich, Itaipu Environment Director; Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations Mahlatsi Mminele; James Spalding, Director general Itaipu Paraguay

The Water for Life Award Winners 2015. From left: Jorge Miguel Samek, Director General Itaipu Brazil; Guy Laliberte, founder Cirque du Soleil; Catharine Bachand, CEO ONE DROP; Nelton Friedrich, Itaipu Environment Director; Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations Mahlatsi Mminele; James Spalding, Director general Itaipu Paraguay

The winners of the 2015 Water for Life Awards gathered at United Nations Headquarters to receive their awards on Monday 30 March.

The winner in the ‘Best Water Management Practices’ category was Cultivando Agua Boa. ONE DROP Project India and DWS/WESSA Eco-Schools South Africa shared the award for ‘Best Communications and Awareness Raising Projects’. Continue reading

In Nigeria, inspiring women leaders have emerged through improving rural sanitation and hygiene

Concern Universal, the Nigerian Government and WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund are working in partnership through the ‘Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria’ (RUSHPIN) programme. Its main approach, known as Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), creates an environment where entire communities are mobilized to end open defecation. This process also opens the door for women to become powerful agents of change.

Through the CLTS approach, hundreds of women from rural communities across southeastern Nigeria are taking the lead in championing sanitation and hygiene. Here are a few of the inspiring women and how they are transforming the health of their communities:

Building Better Partnerships: Joy Ettah

Joy has built a strong rapport with communities and inspires women to take the lead in their communities.

Joy Ettah is a Community Development Officer with the Abi local government WASH department. Working alongside rural community members to help them eliminate open defecation, Joy has built a strong rapport with these communities and can see the positive impact she is having, especially inspiring women to take the lead in their communities: “I see that things are improving. This project has brought a lot of changes in their lives, and they even call me to come around when I am not on duty.”

Leading by Example: Blessing Lebo

The bottom-up CLTS approach empowers women to become champions for improved sanitation and hygiene in their communities. While often facing ridicule or social exclusion, these women also challenge established gender roles.

Blessing Lebo rallied wives to lead by example.

When Blessing Lebo, Itoli community, visited households to encourage them to build toilets, the men dismissed her as a “foolish woman”. In response, Blessing Lebo rallied their wives to lead by example. With the women building the toilets for their families, she then challenged the men: “What a man cannot do, a woman has done. So what are you men doing for this community?” Since then, the men have joined the women in building toilets, and have together succeeded in making their community open-defecation-free. Continue reading

Breaking Taboos


“We have broken a taboo and quite powerfully too,“ declared Senegal’s UN Ambassador, Fode Seck, wrapping up an event where women (and men) from around the world eagerly packed into a UN conference room – sitting even on the windowsills and floor – to discuss the impact on women and girls of inadequate menstrual hygiene, open defecation and other practices that are usually unmentionable in polite company.



Titled “Unlocking multiple benefits for women and girls through sanitation and hygiene in the post-2015 era”, the event took place on 13 March during the two-week session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Permanent Missions of Senegal and Singapore co-hosted, with the support of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and UN Women.

Singapore Ambassador Karen Tan kicked off the discussion by summing up the dire situation: 2 billion people globally lack adequate sanitation, and one billion practice open defecation, with particular challenges for women and girls, including greater risk of violence and sexual assault. There is much work to be done, she noted, in providing WASH facilities to women and girls, who “should not be ashamed of these very natural needs they have.” Continue reading

Clean and Safe Toilets: A Women’s Right

Message for International Women’s Day

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson

One third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, live with poor sanitation. One billion people have no choice but to defecate in the open. Although everybody deserves the dignity of a safe and clean toilet, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to the effects of inadequate sanitation.

Access to safe sanitation, good hygiene and clean water is a human right. Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of women today are denied access to those services. In my visits to refugee camps and communities around the world, I have often met with women asking for clean water and safe toilets as urgent needs for themselves and their families. I will never forget their plight and their voices.

Women in Madagascar

Access to toilets protects women against violence

For women and girls, access to sanitation is not only a question of privacy and dignity, but also of safety and protection. Although gender-based violence is a complex issue, more and more evidence links lack of safe toilets for women and girls to increased physical insecurity and vulnerability.[1] Continue reading

(The News Pakistan Op-ed): Out in the Open

By Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. Originally published in The News Pakistan

This week I attended the Pakistan Conference on Sanitation, PACOSAN II, which took place in Islamabad. Among the many interesting issues raised, one stood out as a serious problem for communities within Pakistan. I am talking about the problem of open defecation.

It is not a pleasant subject and nobody really likes to talk about it. However, it needs to be addressed because children suffer and die from it in Pakistan every day.

Too many people throughout the country do not have proper toilets. They are forced to relieve themselves under the open sky, and involuntarily cause a major public health problem.

Let me tell you a story from my childhood. When I was growing up in Delhi, we lived in a middle class neighbourhood that bordered a poorer community of cow herders and dairy farmers. Faeces on the ground and open drains were part and parcel of my environment, even though we had a toilet in my home and I lived in a modern neighbourhood. My mother constantly nagged me not to run barefoot on the streets. However, playing pithoo required me to run fast, especially to defeat the boys, and running fast was not possible in rubber slippers. I would kick them off and run barefoot on the street, picking up the ball from open drains if necessary, and sometimes accidentally stepping in the human waste that lay on the street.

I constantly suffered from intestinal worms and parasites that robbed me of the nutrition that my parents so carefully invested in for their children. It was a source of constant worry for my mother that I was painfully thin and looked malnourished. She took my condition very personally, but could do very little to control it, because of the environment in which we lived. Continue reading

2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference

UN WaterThis week, we’ll be participating in the 2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action from 15-17 January 2015.

The end open defecation campaign will be presented during the media and communications session on Friday, 16 January.

Follow @water_decade for updates, and watch the live conference stream here.