Improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is a fundamental human right. Sanitation is central to human and environmental health. World Toilet Day, celebrated each year on November 19th, is a unique opportunity to highlight this important topic and to take actions for tackling the global sanitation crisis. Sustainable Sanitation must be a global development priority for realising Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all, by 2030.
Many experts deem a 'safe toilet as a super vaccine', described as the first line of defence against the water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, and cholera. Promoting safely managed sanitation can save thousands of lives. Nevertheless, around 297,000 children under five – more than 800 every day – die annually from diarrhoea due to poor sanitation and hygiene or unsafe drinking water. Globally, 4.2 billion people are still living without access to safely managed sanitation.
This year the theme for World Toilet Day is 'Sustainable sanitation and climate change'. Climate change is rapidly increasing and is posing intense and unpredictable risks in every sector, including sanitation. Increased incidences of flooding, drought, and rising sea levels caused by climate change, are threatening the sanitation value chain; from toilets to septic tanks and also treatment plants. As a result, drinking water sources have been heavily contaminated by pathogens, causing deadly and chronic diseases. In the light of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, access to sustainable sanitation including clean drinking water and handwashing facilities has been ever more essential to protecting human health. Ensuring good and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, and health care facilities, can further help to prevent human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Recent studies reveal that sanitation and wastewater systems contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions. There is significant potential to reduce emissions from sanitation and wastewater systems, through the recovery of energy and nutrients contained in human waste. These actions could mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change, leading to a boost in agriculture through the capture of emissions for greener energy and finally to provide food and energy security.
Sustainable sanitation requires huge investment. It is estimated that about US$ 436 million is required annually to end open defecation in 49 lower, lower-middle and upper-middle income IsDB member countries by 2030. Annually, US$ 20.6 billion is required to provide safely managed sanitation facilities to the population in those member countries by 2030. Additional investments are required to develop young sanitation professionals and to build local capacity in the sanitation sector. In addition, research and development initiatives should be taken to bring new and transformative sanitation technologies and solutions. The components of increasing sanitation investments, capacity development and promoting sanitation innovations have been highlighted in the Urban and Water Policies recently approved by IsDB.
Addressing the sanitation challenge will require global partnership and collaborative actions. IsDB shows its solidarity with the Global Sanitation Movement and we extend our hands for collaboration in achieving SDG targets on sustainable sanitation.
Let us all utilise World Toilet Day 2020 to enhance our focus on sustainable sanitation in our member countries.