Two and a half billion people – over a third of the world’s population – live without adequate sanitation facilities. The human waste from another two billion residents in towns and cities is not safely treated and can end up dangerously polluting neighbourhoods, rivers, lakes or seas. Nearly 800 million people still do not have access to an improved source of drinking water protected from outside contamination.
The previous Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to halve the number of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015 has been missed by a mile: half a billion people, to be more precise. There may be many reasons for this failure, but one of them is that sanitation is an area where it has been particularly difficult to engage governments and donors and that sanitation is a complex process in which many different stakeholders must be involved. However, investment in sanitation will deliver an immediate return in improved health, a better environment and increased productivity. The World Bank has estimated that every dollar, pound or euro spent on improving sanitation delivers fivefold in social and economic benefits.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 calls for achieving and for sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. This requires an extra effort as access to water and sanitation in itself is not enough! Sustainable management implies that services are safe, clean, accessible, affordable and acceptable for all and continuously available. EuSAIN advocates for this extra effort by all, for all, and contributes to the global Goal by awareness raising, capacity building, training and empowerment of people, communities and responsible organisation, be it local governments or enterprises, in the provision of sustainable sanitation or water services.
Poor sanitation and hygiene provision helps spread a range of fatal and non-fatal diseases. It adds an extra dimension of lethal risks to floods. It damages ecosystems. It can make it particularly difficult for girls to go to school once they start menstruating. It costs families and economies dear, as work days (and life years) are lost due to wholly avoidable sickness. And it can force girls and women to scurry off to fields or alleyways for privacy after dark, making them vulnerable to assault.
Political and financial decision-makers are often unaware of the fundamental importance, or the multiple benefits, of WASH improvements. In addition, investment in sanitation faces many competing priorities such as infrastructure, education or defence. As a result, WASH and specifically sanitation is often not prioritized and suffers from a lack of institutional leadership, capacity and resources which impedes progress. Sanitation may never be a glamorous subject, but without it sustainable development cannot be achieved. It is the key to healthier, more sustainable and resilient cities and communities.
EuSAIN puts sanitation in focus as a priority area for sustainable development and helps to build capacities, advocates and raises awareness for sanitation and SDG 6 at all levels among stakeholders (governments, utilities, civil society organisations, communities and citizens) with the long term aim to achieve good quality Sanitation, Water and Hygiene services for all and to achieve a significant contribution to all other, related SDGs. EuSAIN departs from the point of view that sanitation and water are human rights. That means that participation, non-discrimination, accountability and sustainability are central in our efforts to advance the SDG.