By Confidente Reporter
UNLESS countries make comprehensive policy shifts and invest more funds, the world will not reach the goal of universal sanitation coverage – where every person in the world has access to toilets that safely contain excreta – by 2030.
According to the new guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) countries can significantly reduce the 829,000 annual diarrhoeal deaths due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. For every US$1 (N$14.8) invested in sanitation, WHO estimates a nearly six-fold return as measured by lower health costs, increased productivity and fewer premature deaths.
Worldwide, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation (with almost half forced to defecate in the open). They are among the 4.5 billion without access to safely managed sanitation services – in other words, a toilet connected to a sewer or a pit or septic tank that treats human waste.
“Without proper access, millions of people the world over are deprived of the dignity, safety and convenience of a decent toilet,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, deputy director-general for programmes at WHO.
“Sanitation is a fundamental foundation of human health and development and underpins the core mission of WHO and ministries of health worldwide. WHO’s Sanitation and Health Guidelines are essential to securing health and wellbeing for everyone, everywhere.”
WHO developed the new guidelines on sanitation and health because current sanitation programmes are not achieving anticipated health gains and there is a lack of authoritative health-based guidance on sanitation.
“Billions of people live without access to even the most basic sanitation services,” said Dr Maria Neira, director in the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO.
“The transmission of a host of diseases, including cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, is linked to dirty water and inadequately treated sewage. Poor sanitation is also a major factor in transmission of neglected tropical diseases, such as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, as well as contributing to malnutrition.”
Sanitation interventions should ensure entire communities have access to toilets that safely contain excreta. The full sanitation system should undergo local health risk assessments to protect individuals and communities from exposure to excreta – whether this be from unsafe toilets, leaking storage or inadequate treatment.
Sanitation should be integrated into regular local government-led planning and service provision to avert the higher costs associated with retrofitting sanitation, and to ensure sustainability. The health sector should invest more and play a coordinating role in sanitation planning to protect public health.
India has elevated the challenge of ending open defecation to the highest level. Under the Indian prime minister’s leadership, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Programme) is coordinating action across many sectors to ensure basic sanitation rapidly reaches and improves the lives of millions.
Senegal is a leader in Africa that recognizes the role of pit latrines and septic tanks in ensuring services for all. The government is providing innovative solutions with the private sector to ensure pits and septic tanks are emptied and contents are treated to ensure affordable services and clean communities.
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