NEW DELHI: World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the first global guidelines on sanitation and health on October 1, 2018 and warned that the world will not reach the goal of universal sanitation coverage – where every person in the world has access to toilets that safely contain excreta – by 2030 unless countries make comprehensive policy shifts and invest more funds.
The release said that by adopting WHO’s new guidelines, countries can significantly reduce the number of annual diarrheal deaths that are caused due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. For every US $ 1 invested in sanitation, WHO estimates a nearly six-fold return as measured by lower health costs, increased productivity and fewer premature deaths.
Worldwide, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation (with almost half forced to defecate in the open). They are among the 4.5 billion who don’t have access to safely managed sanitation services – in other words, a toilet connected to a sewer or pit or a septic tank that treats human waste.
“Without proper access, millions of people in the world are deprived of the dignity, safety, and convenience of a decent toilet,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director-General for Programs, WHO. “Sanitation is a fundamental foundation of human health and development and underpins the core mission of WHO and ministries of health worldwide. WHO’s Sanitation and Health Guidelines are essential for securing health and wellbeing for everyone, everywhere” she added.
WHO developed the new guidelines on sanitation and health because current sanitation programs are not achieving anticipated health gains and there is a lack of authoritative health-based guidance on sanitation.
“Billions of people live without access to even the most basic sanitation services,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, WHO.
She further said, “The transmission of a host of diseases, including cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, is linked to dirty water and inadequately treated sewage. Poor sanitation is also a major factor in the transmission of neglected tropical diseases such as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, as well as contributing to malnutrition.”
The new guidelines set out four principal recommendations:
- Sanitation interventions should ensure entire communities have access to toilets that safely contain excreta.
- The full sanitation system should undergo local health risk assessments to protect individuals and communities from exposure to excreta – whether from unsafe toilets, leaking storage or inadequate treatment.
- Sanitation should be integrated into regular local government-led planning and service provision to avert the higher costs associated with retrofitting sanitation and to ensure sustainability.
- The health sector should invest more and play a coordinating role in sanitation planning to protect public health.
India has elevated the challenge of ending open defecation to the highest level. Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Program) is coordinating action across many sectors to ensure basic sanitation rapidly reaches and improves the lives of millions.
The data available on the portal of Swachh Bharat Mission(Gramin), Ministry of Drinking Water and sanitation informs that 8,68,13,474 household toilets have been constructed since October 2, 2014. As on date 4,465 villages along Ganga River, 25 states/ Union Territories and 529 districts are open defecation free. Swachh Bharat Urban, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India portal says that the construction of 50,71,725 individual toilets and 3,95,200 Community and Public Toilets has been completed in cities.