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UN Officials Call for Universal Access to Sanitation on World Toilet Day

worldtoiletday19 November 2013: On the occasion of the first official World Toilet Day, UN officials called for galvanizing action on sanitation and achieving universal access to sanitation in the post-2015 development agenda. The Day aims to make sanitation for all a global development priority, and to change behavior and policy on sanitation, including through ending open-air defecation, enhancing water management and improving human health.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sanitation target, to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, is the most off-track MDG target, according to Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, with 83% of countries “significantly behind” their national targets.

Economic costs from poor sanitation can cost a country up to 1.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP); conversely, adequate sanitation could save US$260 billion a year, according to a joint statement by Michel Jarraud, UN-Water Chair and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO); Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Chair, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC); and Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Chair, UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water & Sanitation (UNSGAB).

“Despite the compelling moral and economic case for action on sanitation, progress has been too little and too slow,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. Ban called for urgently stepping up sanitation efforts by changing cultural perceptions, educating at-risk communities and scaling up successful sanitation models. Ban recommended placing sanitation at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. Likewise, de Albuquerque recommended prioritizing the elimination of open defection and inequalities in access in the post-2015 agenda, and called for “sustainable solutions for those persons who are systematically forgotten and face significant barriers in accessing sanitation,” such as the disabled, women and girls, homeless, minorities and slum dwellers.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) drew attention to its Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) programme, which encourages communities to identify measures to end open defecation and has achieved results in over 50 countries. UNICEF held events around the world to raise awareness on the dangers of open defecation and the lack of access to improved sanitation. [World Toilet Day Website] [Message of UN Secretary-General] [UNRIC Press Release on de Albuquerque Statement] [Sanitation for All Website] [UNICEF Press Release] [Prince Hassan Statement] [UN Women Statement]