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

(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.

Water, sanitation and hygiene: what should we aim for post-2015?

Originally published in the Guardian by Amanda Marlin, WSSCC

Lessons have been learned from the MDGs and improvements can be made to help drive investments in WASH


 Water, sanitation and hygiene: what should we aim for post-2015? Photograph: WSSCC/Katherine Anderson

Colleagues at the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for water supply and sanitation are painfully aware of this. These are the folk who reported that the MDG target for drinking water had been met by 2010, but that more than 700 million people still lack access to improved sources of drinking water. They are also the people who remind us that we are way off track to meet the sanitation target, with 2.5 billion people still lacking access to improved sanitation, and 1 billion people practising open defecation.
Continue reading

World Toilet Day around the globe

This World Toilet Day round-up was originally published on WSSCC

Belgium, Brussels

The European Toilet Declaration was proclaimed at the European Parliament in Brussels, hosted by Unilever and WaterAid. The declaration focuses attention on positioning WASH prominently in the Post-2015 agenda. WSSCC’s Amanda Marlin attended a debate hosted by Catherine Bearder MEP on how progress on WASH is fundamental for advancing on other key development areas such as nutrition, food security, women empowerment and economic development and how an ambitious EU position on WASH can make progress possible. Read the declaration.

India, Jharkhand

Visibility of India’s ODF campaign has gone from strength to strength with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government setting itself the challenge to become open-defecation free by 2019. A recent WSSCC mission to India by Executive Director Chris Williams and a team of sanitation and equity experts helped to make the GSF more visible to key stakeholders including local and State government. Political will is vital to implement the national Swatch Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) which requires the building of 111 million toilets.

India, Chennai

At the India Toilet Summit held in Chennai, held on World Toilet Day, stakeholders including policy makers and researchers agreed that building toilets is not the only solution to end open defecation, rather it is necessary to change mindsets. Sixty percent of India’s population resorts to open defecation. WSSCC ‘s National Coordinator Vinod Mishra told those attending the summit there is an estimated 6.4% loss of GDP due to health expenses that arise due to lack of toilets contributing to poverty and malnourishment. Continue reading

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