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 cannot be addressed in a stand-alone manner, just like water, health or food problems. They are interrelated and must be addressed in an integrated way. Water resources management is as important as education about sanitation and health and as important as a service orientation of water and sanitation service providers. Building toilets is not a solution if people do not use it in the way that is intended and it is useless without an answer to the question: “how to treat the human waste?”
To ensure sustainability of a new sanitation system there must be a clear understanding, agreement and commitment of: what are the needs and wishes of the people; what are the capacities of local institutions, utilities and people; what are the barriers (legal, financial, environmental, social, institutional, etc.) and what are the links to health, food, water and energy.
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 aims to build capacities at all levels among stakeholders (governments, utilities and civil society organisations) with long term aim to achieve good quality Sanitation and Water services for all and to achieve a significant contribution to all related SDGs.
People often do not consider a lack of sanitation in itself as a problem. More often they indicate poor health, poor quality of life, water and food shortages, lack of modern energy, or lack of privacy (in existing communal/shared sanitation facilities) as a problem that they experience. For a good understanding of the importance of sanitation it is necessary to make “Awareness raising” an integral part of all implementing projects related to sanitation and health. Furthermore, the strategy of addressing the sanitation challenge includes a strategy of waste management, disease prevention and improved health status. It aims for side benefits such as (potential) increased agriculture production or energy production.
First and foremost, safe sanitation is a condition for improving public health. Still one in five children under the age of five die from diarrhoea, a disease directly caused by lack of or poor sanitation and hygiene. We think this is unacceptable.