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UN calls for increased action on sanitation

UN calls for increased action on sanitation

Apr 14, 2014

At a high-level meeting held on 11 April 2014 in Washington DC, themed “Smart investments to achieve water, sanitation and hygiene for all”, chief executives issued a clarion call for the DC gathering to make the most of their meeting.

Said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson: “On behalf of the Secretary-General, I have called for increased action on sanitation – in particular, to end the practice of open defecation by 2025. This High Level Meeting is about solutions and how to ensure better sanitation, water and hygiene for all people.”

“Lack of adequate sanitation and water is most devastating for children, especially the poorest and most marginalised,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, which is convening the meeting. “We are asking everyone coming to this meeting to think of these children as they plan their commitments. When the lives and futures of children hang in the balance, how can we hesitate to act?”

“Lack of access to sanitation can contribute to keeping people in poverty and preventing equitable prosperity in society,” said Jae So, Director, Trust Funds and Partnerships, World Bank. “And this is particularly troubling to us at the World Bank Group. Our goals are to end poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity for the poorest 40% in developing countries. As SWA partners report on progress made and increased country commitments leading up to 2016, we have a chance to leap forward toward this goal by signalling to the world that solving sanitation is an essential step to ending poverty, and one that can see vast and rapid progress among poor people in a relatively short amount of time and for little cost.”

“This crisis in water and sanitation simply cannot wait. This meeting represents our best chance to reach the world’s poorest people with these basics of life. We cannot let this moment pass by – we need smart, sustainable, ambitious commitments to reach those who need help most,” said Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid.

“The scale of the global sanitation problem and of open defecation, in particular, is massive. Sanitation proponents can no longer just work in a village here or a slum there. Like a polio campaign, they need to work with many partners to cover entire districts and provinces. This meeting offers a real opportunity to harness community savings, public investment and private capital so that countries in Africa and South Asia can finally stop open defecation, move to safe sanitation, and have clean water,” said Chris Williams, Executive Director at the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).


  • The world met the Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people without safe water in 2010, exceeding the target and reaching 89 per cent of the global population. Water access has continued to improve, but according to the latest data from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 748 million people globally still lack improved sources of drinking water.
  • The MDG target on sanitation is to extend access to improved sanitation to three-quarters of the global population by 2015. However WHO and UNICEF report that 2.5 billion people – one-third of the people in the world – still do not have acess. Of these 1 billion practice open defecation. At the current rate of progress, the MDG target will not be met.
  • Diarrhoeal diseases linked to a lack of safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene kill an estimated 1,400 children each day.

At the last High Level Meeting in 2012, countries made 415 commitments toward bringing safe water and sanitation to those in need. Good progress has been made on more than 200 of these commitments, yet just 50 have been completed. Ministers from developing and donor countries are urged to renew their commitments towards bringing safe water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030.

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