Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 calls for achieving sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. This requires an extra effort as increasing access 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 and contributes to the global Goal by awareness raising, capacity building, training and empowerment of people, communities and local governments in the provision of sustainable water and sanitation services. Moreover, water supply and sanitation must be improved simultaneously. It makes no sense from a public and environmental health perspective to work on water without addressing sanitation.
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.
Sanitation is an area where it has been particularly difficult to engage governments and donors and 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. Every euro spent on improving sanitation delivers fivefold in social and economic benefits.
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, and accountability are central in our efforts to advance SDG 6.