On the occasion of World Toilet Day, held annually the 19 November, the UN urged people to take action on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), focusing on the links between sanitation and nutrition and highlighting the importance of toilets to improved health.
19 November 2015: On the occasion of World Toilet Day, held annually on 19 November, the UN urged people to take action on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), focusing on the links between sanitation and nutrition and highlighting the importance of toilets to improved health.
Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation and the absence of good hygiene practices are the underlying causes of poor nutrition and endanger the lives of millions of the world’s poorest children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO). On World Toilet Day, speakers stressed the lifelong development and health consequences of poor sanitation and hygiene, noting that a child dies every two minutes from diarrhea, and almost half of all deaths of children under five are attributed to undernutrition.
“Sanitation is central to human and environmental health as well as to individual opportunity, development and dignity,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the Day. He stressed that, despite compelling economic and moral cases for action on sanitation, “progress is too little and too slow,” with sanitation the most missed Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. Ban observed that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the central role of sanitation in sustainable development, including on the relationship between poor sanitation and malnutrition, and called for renewed efforts on providing access to adequate sanitation globally and ending open defecation by 2025. He further urged changing cultural perceptions and long-standing practices that hinder such action.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson highlighted the connection between poor sanitation and a “vicious cycle of disease and poverty,” saying his call to action on sanitation aims to mobilize efforts at all levels to improve sanitation, change social norms and eliminate open defecation. He said the 2030 Agenda “makes clear that access to sanitation, hygiene and clean water is one of the most critical drivers of development.”
Interconnected responses to sanitation are critical to address malnutrition, UNICEF stressed in a press release highlighting the relationship between WASH and nutrition. UNICEF, WHO and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) released a report, ‘Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,’ which presents evidence on the benefits of integrating WASH interventions into national nutrition policies and programmes. The report also provides guidance for action, including on the promotion of interconnected responses to sanitation in addressing malnutrition.
Several agencies showcased WASH progress using UNICEF’s Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, which encourages communities to develop local solutions to the problem of open defecation. UNICEF and WHO highlighted progress on ending open defecation using CLTS in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali and Pakistan. The African Development Bank (AfDB) described progress using the CLTS approach in Mozambique and Uganda, noting that this approach also helps to avoid diseases like cholera, diarrhea and typhoid.
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) designated 19 November as World Toilet Day in its ‘Sanitation for All’ resolution (A/RES/67/291). The UN High-Level Water and Sanitation Days, which convened from 18-20 November, also commemorated World Toilet Day. [UN Press Release] [UNICEF Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UN Deputy Secretary-General Statement] [World Toilet Day Website] [WHO Press Release] [AfDB Press Release] [CLTS Website] [Publication: Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene] [IISD RS Story on High-Level Water and Sanitation Days]