19 November 2020

Secretary-General, in World Toilet Day Message, Calls for Action to Deliver Health, Safe Sanitation Services, with 4.2 Billion Still Lacking Access

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message on World Toilet Day, observed today:

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of sanitation, safe water and hand-washing facilities to stop the spread of infectious diseases.  Everyone should have access to hygienic, safe, sustainable sanitation.  That is the only way to ensure health for all.

But, around the world today, 4.2 billion people are without safe sanitation.  Two billion of these people — more than one quarter of the global population — lack basic sanitation, undermining health, dignity and economic development.

However, rapid progress on sanitation is possible.  Many countries have transformed their sanitation facilities and services within a generation, through programmes including the universal provision of toilets, and improved treatment and use of wastewater.  This has had knock-on benefits for their health systems and economies, and for the environment.

Achieving water and sanitation for all would cost an estimated 1.5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and would bring considerable economic benefits with an estimated return of more than four dollars for every dollar invested.

Today’s sanitation services must be resilient, in order to deal with shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic.  Unless we act now, the climate crisis will disrupt sanitation services for millions.  We need innovative thinking around sanitation services so they are fit for the future.

On World Toilet Day, let’s resolve to take action to deliver health and sanitation for billions of people around the world, today and for future generations.

For information media. Not an official record.