Beyond Infrastructure: Building New Attitudes Also Needed to End Open Defecation, UN Says

UN Press Release: World Toilet Day

1 billion people dont use toilets: 1 in 6 people in developing regions; New UN-Water GLAAS findings underscore critical gaps in monitoring, particularly for sanitation in rural areas

(United Nations, New York, 19 November) — The UN today called on religious, education and opinion leaders in developing regions to join government officials and champion a halt to open defecation, a practice of 1 billion people worldwide — one-sixth of the developing world’s 5.9 billion inhabitants.

At UN Headquarters in New York marking World Toilet Day, coordinated by UN-Water, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson highlighted the health threat posed by lack of access to sanitation, and the particular dangers open defecation poses for women and girls.

Said Mr. Eliasson: “We know that political will at the highest level is critical to address these challenges. However, we also know that success at ending open defecation goes beyond infrastructure.  It requires the understanding of behaviors, cultural attitudes and social norms.” Continue reading

UN Secretary-General’s Message for World Toilet Day 2014

This message was originally published on the UN site

One out of three women around the world lack access to safe toilets. As a result they face disease, shame and potential violence when they seek a place to defecate.

A staggering 1.25 billion women and girls would enjoy greater health and increased safety with improved sanitation. Evidence also shows safe and clean toilets encourage girls to stay in school.

We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility. That is why the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day focuses on “Equality, Dignity and the Link Between Gender-Based Violence and Sanitation.”

World Toilet DayAddressing the sanitation challenge requires a global partnership. This is especially crucial as countries work to formulate a sustainable development agenda for the period beyond the year 2015. Meeting the goal of sanitation for all will involve targeted policies, increased financing, and comprehensive planning underpinned by strong political will. Communities must be supported as they strive to become open defecation-free. Advocacy efforts must step up and taboos must be broken. These are the objectives of the UN Call to Action on Sanitation to mobilize global, national and community efforts to improve hygiene, change social norms and eliminate open defecation by 2025.

On World Toilet Day let us spare no effort to bring equality, dignity and safety to women and girls around the world.

Ban Ki-moon

More on World Toilet Day

Video: eThekwini in Durban, South Africa brought water & sanitation to 1 million people

The Municipality of eThekwini, Durban, South Africa, won a UN-Water Best Practices award for best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practice with their initiative ‘A Participatory and Learning Based Approach to Raising Awareness on Water and Sanitation’. This video presents the different components of the initiative and explains what worked and what didn’t when trying to improve access to clean water and sanitation in the municipality.

Water: Our life, our future

Nigeria students embrace end of open defecation in their community

This is part of the series of Human Interest Stories from campaign partner Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)


Photo: Concern Universal

In Nigeria, 39 million people defecate in the open, causing the spread of deadly diseases and preventable child deaths.

Concern Universal‘s ‘Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria’ (RUSHPIN) programme – an initiative of the UN Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)‘s Global Sanitation Fund – is empowering 2 million people in over 1,000 communities in Cross River and Benue States to end #opendefecation. Continue reading

WASH in schools: Nicaragua


Photo: UNICEF/NICARAGUA – 2014/W. Obando Bluefields: Luvianka Deyanira Brenes

Nicaragua: Sixth-grader Luvianka outside her school’s new WASH facilities © UNICEF/Nicaragua/2013/W.Obando

This is part of the series of Human Interest Stories from campaign partner UNICEF

Access to water and sanitation in schools directly influences the quality of education.

“Last year I preferred not to drink water, even if it was really hot because we didn’t have toilets where you could urinate,” explains sixth-grader Luvianka Deyanira Brenes Salamanca of Nicaragua. Continue reading

Community-Led Total Sanitation in Nigeria



Nigeria: Ahmed, a resident of Rakka Dutse, with his newly constructed household latrine © UNICEF/Nigeria/2014

This is part of the series of Human Interest Stories from campaign partner UNICEF

Helping malnourished children to recover through improved sanitation and hygiene interventions…

For many families in Nigeria, poor sanitation and hygiene can threaten the overall health and development of a community. “We shared our food and our dwelling place with our cows, goats and chickens. We defecated in the open alongside these animals’’, said Yusuf Magaji, a farmer of the Rakka Dutse community in Nigeria. Continue reading

Reaching open defecation-free status in India


India: Moti digging the pit for his own toilet
© UNICEF/Knowledge Links/India/2013

This is part of the series of Human Interest Stories from campaign partner UNICEF

Local leaders help to drive sanitation improvements, bringing significant health and economic gains

Not too long ago, there were only four household toilets, which had all been constructed by the government, in the Ramamaitya village in India. Lack of access to proper sanitation and the continuing practice of open defecation left this rural village vulnerable to disease and contaminated natural resources. The issue of open defecation and poor sanitation carries human and financial costs for people all over the world, not just rural villages of Ramamaitya. Every day, 1,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases attributed to poor sanitation, hygiene, or unsafe drinking water.  Continue reading

New York Times Opinionator: In India, Latrines Are Truly Lifesavers

By Vivekananda Nemana and Ankita Rao. Originally published in the New York Times Opinionator

Chandramani Jani in front of a public awareness mural about toilets and sanitation by her home in Chakarliguda. Credit Vivekananda Nemana

Chandramani Jani in front of a public awareness mural about toilets and sanitation by her home in Chakarliguda. Credit Vivekananda Nemana

The mural on the wall outside of Chandramani Jani’s home is more message than art. It depicts a sari-clad woman relieving herself behind a bush, looking worried as a man advances. A large thought bubble suggests the woman wishes for a toilet of her own, clean and complete with the privacy of a door.

To Jani, a 34-year-old sarpanch, or elected village head, in the hilly Koraput district of India’s Odisha  state, the mural represents a personal mission. She boasts that ever since she had toilets built in her village of Chakarliguda last December, no one in her community defecates outside. A few steps behind every home in the village, well-maintained latrines stand amid kitchen gardens and chicken coops.

“Before we had toilets people used to search for a place to squat. Now it’s easy access,”she said. A few elderly women were hesitant to use the new toilets at first, “but now even they’ve gotten used to the comfort.” Continue reading

UN Deputy-Secretary General: Water and sanitation are critical to global peace and development

Originally published in the UN News Centre

In the Abu Shouk camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Darfur, a child gets a drink of water. Photo: UNAMID/Albert González Farran

In the Abu Shouk camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Darfur, a child gets a drink of water. Photo: UNAMID/Albert González Farran

The most basic of all human rights – water – is also a central element in global affairs and the development agenda with wide implications on international peace and security, the Deputy Secretary-General told participants today the World Water Summit held in London.

“Around today’s world, we see how a lack of access to water can fuel conflict and even threaten peace and stability,” Jan Eliasson pointed out as he delivered the keynote address on “Tackling the Global Water Challenges: What’s Next?,” to the Summit, which was organized by The Economist.

The Deputy Secretary-General stressed the need for “hydro-diplomacy, or water diplomacy” as degraded access to water stemming from climate change, or population pressure risks creating social tensions, political instability and intensified refugee flows. Continue reading