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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 21 June 2011 - Secretary-General's remarks at Launch of "Sustainable Sanitation : Five-Year Drive to 2015"

Your Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Morning,

Last month I visited Nigeria and Ethiopia to highlight global progress and shortfalls on women's and children's health.

During my visit, I saw that simple interventions – by the Government, by business, by civil society - can make a huge difference.

Improving sanitation is one such intervention.

That, of course, is why sanitation itself is included among the targets in our work towards the Millennium Development Goals.

But sanitation is an area where much more needs to be achieved.

For that reason, the General Assembly called last year for a five-year “Drive to 2015”.

I welcome today's event to launch this effort, and I thank Member States for supporting it, and I highly commend and appreciate the leadership and commitment of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Every day, 5,000 children die from diarrhoea. It is the second-leading cause of mortality of children under five.

But the damage does not stop there.

Diarrhoea triggers a cause-and-effect chain with tragic results.

It is closely linked to under-nutrition, which accounts for more than half of all under-five deaths.

Undernourished children have compromised immune systems. Therefore, they often develop fatal or debilitating diseases, including pneumonia -- which kills more children than any other disease.

Under-nutrition also stunts growth and mental development.

On the other hand, good sanitation and hygiene can increase school performance and reduce absenteeism – thus promoting universal primary education.

In addition, adequate school sanitation facilities have been shown to encourage school attendance by adolescent girls – contributing to their empowerment and equality.

Good sanitation can also boost our efforts to combat HIV-AIDS and malaria, simply because people living in hygienic conditions are better prepared to fight off other diseases.

In short, improved sanitation can contribute to all our development goals.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One aspect of sanitation deserves special attention: widespread open defecation.

It is not an easy subject to talk about, but it is a threat that needs to be tackled.

Living day to day without access to a proper toilet exacts a heavy toll, not just on public health, but on dignity – especially for girls and women.

But ending open defecation will not be easy.

It will require strong political commitment, a focused policy framework and reliable supply chains for both building and maintaining affordable latrines.

Most important of all, we need effective public education, so people understand the hazards of open defecation.

I am pleased to note that countries are already responding.

In Nigeria, I saw public information signs by the roadside.

I am also encouraged by the recently launched 'Rural Kenya Open Defecation Free by 2013' campaign.

I urge other countries to follow Kenya's example, and launch policies that will eradicate open defecation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sanitation is a sensitive issue.

It is an unpopular subject.

Perhaps that is why the sanitation crisis has not been met with the kind of response we need.

But that must change.

It is time to put sanitation and access to proper toilets at the centre of our development discussions.

I extend my sincere thanks to my Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, chaired by the Prince of Orange, for their vigorous advocacy on this issue and their leadership.

And I commit the support of the United Nations system to reaching the target of reducing by half, by 2015, the proportion of people living without basic sanitation.

Together we can succeed on the “Drive to 2015”.

Thank you very much.


Statements on 21 June 2011