NEW YORK, 1 January 2008 – UNICEF today officially welcomed the first day of the International Year of Sanitation 2008. The international year aims to highlight the need for urgent action on behalf of the more than 40 per cent of the world’s population who continue to live without improved sanitation.
The International Year of Sanitation, 2008, is a theme year set by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 to help put this global crisis at the forefront of the international agenda.
Though more than 1.2 billion people worldwide have gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2004, an estimated 2.6 billion people - including 980 million children – have lagged behind. The world needs to accelerate progress in order to meet the Millennium Development Goal target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation, such as simple latrines, by 2015.
If current trends continue, there will be 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation in 2015, with children continuing to pay the price in lost lives, missed schooling, in disease, malnutrition and poverty.
Lack of toilets makes women and girls vulnerable to violence if they are forced to defecate only after nightfall and in secluded areas. Sanitation enhances dignity, privacy and safety, especially for women and girls. Schools with decent toilet facilities enable children, especially girls reaching puberty, to remain in the educational system.
“Clean, safe and dignified toilet and hand-washing facilities in schools help ensure that girls get the education they need and deserve,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “When girls get an education, the whole community benefits. The International Year of Sanitation highlights the need for investments in proper sanitation facilities around the world.”
India has been investing tremendously in water and sanitation since Independence.
This section has received increased attention in the Government's XIth Plan. Today 90 percent of India’s rural population has access to safe drinking water and 48 percent of the rural population has access to toilets and sanitation services.
The year will include major regional conferences on sanitation as part of capacity building initiatives, including one that will focus on school sanitation.
It will also encourage public and private partnerships, to help tap into the comparative strengths of each sector to accelerate progress, advocate and raise awareness on sanitation, leverage additional funding, and develop country-level road maps.
India’s national sanitation programme, Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) is operational in 578 out of 600 rural districts with an outlay of Rs.13423.97 crore (US$ 3.35 billion) in which the central share is 60%, the state share as well as the community contributions are approximately 20% each.
Due to TSC and Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP), a revolution in the sanitation sector is sweeping across the country which has increased coverage from 1 percent in 1981 to 48 percent coverage in 2007 making it possible for India to achieve the MDG in sanitation ahead of schedule.”
The Government of India has sanctioned TSC projects in almost all districts of the country so as to achieve full sanitation coverage by 2012. It has planned to provide all rural schools and Anganwadis with safe drinking water and sanitation during the XIth Plan.
Progress requires broad cooperation through public and private partnerships, community involvement and public awareness.
Investing approximately $10 billion per year can halve the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015. If sustained, the same investment could achieve basic sanitation for the entire world within one or two decades.
While the funding needed for sanitation is not overwhelmingly large, the return on that investment is potentially great.
The launch of the theme year, which runs through 2008, was organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in collaboration with the UN-Water Task Force on Sanitation.
The event was attended by UN Member States, NGOs, citizen groups, academics and the private sector as well as members of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board.
“Sanitation is not a dirty word; it is a critical factor in human welfare and sustainable development,” said Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “We need to put the spotlight on this silent crisis.”