Breaking the silence on open defecation
"I am moved by the fact that a child dies every 2 and a half minutes from diseases linked to open defecation. Those are silent deaths – not reported on in the media, not the subject of public debate. Let's not remain silent any longer"
UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson (May 2014)
As part of his Call to Action on Sanitation, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, is launching a new campaign to break silence on open defecation and spur dialogue and action on the most lacking target of the MDGs.
Under the UN leadership, considerable progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty. But one third of humanity (2.5 billion people) still does not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, with dramatic consequences on human health, dignity and security, the environment, and social and economic development. Over one billion people worldwide practice open defecation, one of the clearest manifestations of extreme poverty.
The lack of improved sanitation largely contributes to the fact that a child dies every 2 and a half minute from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. It also impacts vulnerable populations such as persons with disabilities and women, who are more exposed to sexual violence. Lack of private toilets in schools is a major reason why girls do not continue their education once they enter puberty. Poor sanitation and water supply also result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.
Recognizing that greater progress on sanitation is essential for fighting poverty and for achieving all the MDGs, UN Deputy Secretary‐General Jan Eliasson is initiating, on behalf of the Secretary‐General, a renewed effort to drive progress on sanitation and water goals as we head towards 2015 and end the practice of open defecation by 2025.
The initiative builds on the strong commitment already made by UN Member States to take action for sanitation for all endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2013.
The campaign aims at raising awareness on the reality of open defecation. In parts of the world where open defecation is not an issue, the fact that the issue is so poorly understood or even known is seen as a reason why the issue is not getting the attention and the response it deserves. In such places, the campaign urges people to “Search Open Defecation” and find out more about the issue.
In other circumstances, open defecation is known about and a daily reality for millions of people, but may be a taboo or unpopular topic of conversation. Nonetheless, there are many groups, including a number of national governments, who are taking action. The campaign will aim to spur the conversation, break the silence, and celebrate the efforts undertaken.
For more information and view the full campaign please visit: opendefecation.org
Many groups within and beyond the UN system are working to tackle the sanitation crisis, and support the DSG’s Call to Action, amongst which are:
- Sanitation and Water for All
- UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation
- UN Water
- Water and Sanitation Programme
Join the Call to Action on Sanitation