Sanitation For All – let’s achieve the new SDG target.

Aug 31, 2015
Helen Clark

I just spent two days in Tokyo at the World Assembly of Women sponsored by the Government of Japan. One of the issues I spoke on was the importance of sanitation, with a particular focus on the needs of #women and #girls.

Around the world, 2.5 billion people are estimated not to have basic sanitation, and over one billion must resort to open defecation.

Lack of access to adequate sanitation puts the lives and health of women and girls at risk. As well, girls miss many school days and often drop out of school altogether because of lack of private toilets in schools. In his message on World Toilet Day in 2013, the UN Secretary-General noted that when schools provide decent toilets, eleven per cent more girls attend school. That year, the SG launched a Call to Action on Sanitation to end open defecation by 2025.

Sanitation featured as a key area in the Millennium Development Goals, and this is carried through in the new Sustainable Development Goals. New SDG Six calls for the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Achieving that goal requires three things:

1. Leadership and political will. Access to sanitation for all needs to be placed at the heart of national development agendas.

2. Investment. The cost of achieving the SDG by 2030 is estimated at a cost of US$27 billion invested each year until then – or around .036 per cent of global GDP. This is achievable.

3. Integrated and proven approaches which cut across ministries, sectors, and silos are needed.

Let us hope that sanitation will now get the attention it deserves. Access to it is a matter of human dignity and a basic right. It is also critical for poverty reduction and sustainable development.

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