Lack of proper sanitation is holding millions back from global potential - Virendra Sharma MP

Posted On: 
18th November 2016

Ahead of World Toilet Day, MPs respond to a new report launched by WaterAid which reveals the hardest places in the world to find an urban toilet.

"Globally 159 million children under five have their physical and cognitive development stunted; many of such cases are caused from repeated bouts of diarrhoea attributed to dirty water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene."
WaterAid/ Poulomi Basu

India is the worst country in the world for urban sanitation, WaterAid’s State of the World’s Toilets 2016 report has revealed.

Despite the government’s campaign to make sanitation a priority, the towns and cities in India, which is also the world’s fastest growing economy,  are growing at such breakneck speed that the number of urban dwellers living without sanitation is growing each year.

WaterAid’s second-annual analysis of the world’s toilets, ‘Overflowing Cities,’ examines the state of city sanitation around the world, an issue becoming more pressing as two-thirds of the global population are expected to live in towns and cities by 2050.

India ranks top for having the greatest number of urban dwellers living without a safe, private toilet— 157 million – as well as the most urban dwellers practising open defecation— 41 million.

The problem is so big that the daily waste produced on the streets of India’s towns and cities is enough to fill eight Olympic-sized swimming pools, or 16 jumbo jets, with poo, every day.

As cities expand the numbers of urbanites living without basic sanitation has swelled by 26 million since the year 2000.

Elsewhere in the report, it reveals war-ravaged South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is the worst country in the world for urban sanitation in percentage terms. An estimated 84% of people living it its cities and towns have no access to a toilet and every other urban-dweller there practises open defecation.

It also shows that Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, is falling furthest behind in reaching its urban population with a toilet. For every urban dweller reached with sanitation since 2000, two were added to the number living without, an increase of 31 million people in the past 15 years.

The report also notes that fast-growing China is making the most progress in reaching its urban population with sanitation. It’s managed to build toilets faster than the pace of new arrivals, reaching 329 million people since 2000, and outpacing population growth by 9 million.

The report examines the problems facing more than 700 million urban dwellers around the world living without decent sanitation. An estimated 100 million of these have no choice but to defecate in the open-- using roadsides, railway tracks and even plastic bags dubbed ‘flying toilets’.

The high population density of urban areas means that diseases spread fast in the absence of good sanitation.

One child dies every two minutes from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water, poor sanitation and hygiene. Globally 159 million children under five have their physical and cognitive development stunted; many of such cases are caused from repeated bouts of diarrhoea attributed to dirty water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene.

This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:

·       Everyone living in urban areas, including slums, to be reached with a toilet to ensure public health is protected

·       More money, better spent from governments and donors on sanitation, clean water and hygiene for the urban poor

·       Coordination from all actors in the sanitation chain including governments, city planners, NGOs, the private sector, informal service providers and citizens

·       Sanitation workers to be given the respect they deserve with stable employment, safety and decent pay. Without them healthy communities and cities are impossible.

Chair of the International Development Committee Stephen Twigg welcomed the new report.

“The report highlights the enormous impact of poor sanitation in urban areas, including in DRC and Nigeria, two countries which my Committee has recently visited.

“It comes on the back of another report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) which stressed the need for sustainability in sanitation interventions.

“The ideas put forward by WaterAid, if implemented, would make a valuable contribution towards the achievement of Global Goal 6.”

WaterAid’s Chief Executive Barbara Frost said:“For the first time in history, more people around the globe are now living in cities. Cities should be a place for sustainable lifestyles offering healthy living, good infrastructure, wellbeing and economic growth. But the reality is that one person in every five living in a town or city today does not have access to a toilet or good sanitation and many live in poverty in overcrowded, rapidly expanding informal settlements.

“Not only does this lead to a lack of dignity for women and girls and health risks to poor families, this lack of sanitation also threatens the health and security of all city dwellers and leads to pollution of rivers and water sources.

“This World Toilet Day, we are calling on national leaders to deliver on their promises to meet the UN’s Global Goal 6 to ensure access to safe water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to affordable access to these basic services that will lead to better lives and drive prosperity.”

Labour MP Virendra Sharma said, commenting on the report: “Nearly 70,000 children die a year in India because of poor sanitation, and 40% of children are not growing properly. This a health problem that affects everyone, but the impact on women and girls is staggering. It is not just a health problem but an economic one, and a lack of proper sanitation is holding back millions from achieving their potential globally.

The International Development Committee member added: “ It is really important that WaterAid have quantified and analysed how significant the issues so many are still facing. I hope that this report will give fresh impetus to the drive to deliver all urban populations with proper sanitation”

WaterAid’s senior policy analyst on sanitation, Andrés Hueso, said: “WaterAid’s latest ‘State of World’s Toilets’ report has exposed several countries for failing to make progress in providing urban sanitation, despite their rapid economic growth. Often politicians prefer to invest in roads and other visible infrastructure and neglect the dirty issue of sanitation. But good sanitation is the bedrock of public health. Every town and city in the world needs to prioritise providing safe sanitation services to all the population in order to create a healthier, more sustainable future.”

Also responding to the report, a DFID spokesperson said:

“Safe water, hygiene and sanitation are basic essentials that save lives and prevent disease. The UK is committed to helping the world’s poorest access these life-saving basics, and sixty million of the world's most vulnerable people now have access to clean water and sanitation thanks to British aid. We should be proud of this achievement and we will build on this success by helping a further 60 million people by 2020.”