Breaking taboos on World Toilet Day

UN Photo/Patricia Esteve

With progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), inadequate sanitation and open defecation continues to be a pressing global challenge, especially for millions of the poorest people living in developing countries. Officially observed by UN for the first time, World Toilet Day is aimed to break the taboos and start an open discussion on the importance of sanitation and hygiene.

In his message for the Day, UN Secretary-General called for action to end open defecation, which results in many suffering long-term health and developmental consequences. “We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development priority,” he said. “As we look beyond 2015, it is essential that sanitation is placed at the heart of the post-2015 development framework.”

Ban Ki-moon underlined the need for open discussions on the issue as a primary goal of World Toilet Day: “By working together – and by having an open and frank discussion on the importance of toilets and sanitation – we can improve the health and well-being of one-third of the human family.”

Poor sanitation accounts for child deaths from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. At the same time, lack of private toilets results in women being more exposed to sexual violence and girls dropping out of school by puberty age. Economically, poor water and sanitation cost developing countries around $260 billion a year – 1.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP), while every dollar invested could bring a five-fold return by keeping people healthy and productive.

Declaring 19 November as World Toilet Day in its 2013 Resolution, the General Assembly urged UN Member States and relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor, along with a call to end the practice of open-air defecation, which it deemed “extremely harmful” to public health.

The resolution also recognizes the role that civil society and NGOs play in raising awareness. It also calls on countries to approach sanitation in a much broader context that includes hygiene promotion, the provision of basic sanitation services, and sewerage and wastewater treatment and reuse in the context of integrated water management.

As one of the major UN entities for development, DESA continuously contributes to the efforts in global action for sanitation. The Department is a member of UN Water initiative through its Division for Sustainable Development (DSD). The Division also hosts UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) secretariat, which supported both the International Year of Sanitation and the Sanitation Drive to 2015 launched by the Secretary-General in June 2011.

Source: DESA, UN News

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