Sanitation: Time to Tackle an MDG Laggard
Friday, October 7, 2011
It is hardly the most glamorous role for Shah Rukh Khan, yet “the king of Bollywood” has agreed to lend his name to the cause of sanitation and hygiene, the laggards in the millennium development goals.
Basic sanitation, covering subjects such as toilets, latrines, handwashing and waste, is not an MDG in its own right, instead falling under MDG7 on ensuring environmental sustainability. But sanitation and hygiene have been the poor cousins in the global Wash (water, sanitation and hygiene) work and programmes, outfunded by as much as 13 to one, even though it could be argued that most water-related diseases are really sanitation-related diseases.
As the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said in June, sanitation is a sensitive and unpopular subject, so it is unsurprising it fails to garner much public or official attention – although the UN declared access to water and sanitation a fundamental right in 2010 and there is a UN rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
At the current rate, the world will miss the sanitation MDG target by 13 percentage points, meaning there will still be 2.6 billion people without access to improved sanitation, according to the WHO/Unicef joint monitoring programme for water supply and sanitation. If things carry on as they are, the MDG target will not be met until 2049.