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

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

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.

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

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

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

Sanitation highlighted at Global Citizen Festival

Originally posted on WSSCC

The Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on September 28th, 2014 brought the call against poverty and injustice in the developing world out of the meeting rooms of the United Nations General Assembly, to a massive show of youth support.

The jubilation of 60,000 screaming fans followed the political equivalent of a rock star performance by Jim Kim, the President of the World Bank, speaking about peace, youth and the future. He was joined by Prime Minister Modi who has been vocal about tackling the issue of sanitation in India since taking office earlier this year.

World leaders shared the stage with Raya, the Sanitation Muppet created by Sesame Street and endorsed by the UN Deputy Secretary General to carry forward his “Call to Action on Sanitation.” Their interaction brought home the fact that ending open defecation is now a truly global movement.


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Toilet paper with an important message “rolled out” during UNGA

Originally posted on the United Nations blog

A call to end the practice of open defecation will be “rolled out” in a unique way during the UN General Assembly’s high-level week.

Special toilet paper featuring educational messages will be placed in restrooms in the areas of the UN building frequented by delegates to the General Assembly.

toilet paper“One billion people globally do not have any access to a toilet and have to defecate in the open,” is one of the messages on the toilet paper, calling attention to a problem with serious consequences for the health and development of communities. Eighty-two per cent of the one billion people practising open defecation in the world live in just 10 countries.

Another message is: “A child dies every 2.5 minutes from diarrhoeal diseases spread by lack of access to a clean toilet, proper hygiene and safe drinking water.”

The toilet paper calls on users: “Let’s break the silence and end #opendefecation.”

The toilet paper was produced in support of the UN’s call to action on sanitation, launched by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on behalf of the UN Secretary-General. The project was carried out by UNICEF, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and the Millennium Campaign, among other partners.

“I think we have seen progress on water, although there are still 780 million people without safe water. But I am sad to say that we have not seen the same pace of progress on sanitation,” the Deputy Secretary-General recently told The Guardian.

“On the contrary, I would say the sanitation goal is one of the most lagging of all the goals, and that is why we have tried our best to speed up the work for achieving it by the end of next year.”

He said he was driven to speak out by memories of the children he had seen die from diarrhoea, dysentery and dehydration. “It’s a very concrete challenge and it’s not rocket science,” he said. “We need to do something about it.”

For more information see or

Open Defecation at the Thank You Festival

Our initiative to end Open Defecation was featured in last month’s Thank You Festival in Columbia, Maryland (USA), a benefit event that aimed to mobilize millennials to help end extreme poverty. The festival featured top electronic dance music DJs, including Tiësto, Above & Beyond and local talent Alvin Risk, along with installations such as a giant inflatable toilet – drawing attention to the need to improve sanitation worldwide. The event was organized by our partner Global Citizen, along with the World Childhood Foundation. Take a look at some of the great photos and tweets!

Together we can break the silence and end open defecation!

Thank You Festival Thank You FestivalThank You Festival Thank You Festival

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