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Bringing Sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene to the World's Poorest


Since 1990, the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has worked with NGOs, local communities, and national and local governments to bring sustainable water supplies, modern sanitation and hygiene practices to the world's poorest and most remote communities. In its latest progress report, the council reveals that with support from the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) national governments and their local partners in 13 countries have provided some 4.2 million people with improved toilets.

In addition to improving community and environmental health and sustainability, bringing sustainable water supplies, modern sanitation and hygiene to the world's underserved and poorest communities empowers them, opening up prospects of greater socioeconomic opportunities. Critical to realizing sustainable development's potential, the initiatives the WSSCC organizes are integral to achieving to nearly all eight of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These include reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and ensuring environmental sustainability.

GSF support has ended the practice of open defecation among 7 million people living in more than 20,500 communities. In addition, handwashing facilities have been provided for some 8 million, the U.N. organization highlights in its latest progress report. The results, commented Chris Williams, WSSCC executive director, “prove that we are moving closer to our vision of a world where everybody has sustained sanitation and hygiene, supported by safe water. This is a crucial step towards achieving better health, reducing poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability for the most marginalized people in the world.”

Water, sanitation and health

It's estimated that no less than 2.5 billion people – 40 percent of the global population – do not have access to decent sanitation. More than 1 billion reportedly defecate in the open, exposing themselves and their communities to various risks. Among them is diarrheal disease, which WSSCC explains, “is a leading cause of malnutrition, stunting and child mortality, claiming nearly 600,000 under-5 lives every year.”

Formed in 1990 by the U.N. to succeed the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, WSSCC has since “served as an international coordinating body to enhance collaboration in the water supply, sanitation and hygiene sectors, specifically in order to attain universal coverage for poor people around the world.”

With voluntary contributions from state, private and public sector sources, WSSC has assembled and coordinates the activities of a global network of water, sanitation and health (WASH) professionals. The GSF is its principal project funding mechanism.

WSSCC highlights a few key results in the executive summary of its latest progress report:

  • „4.2 million people with improved toilets, up from 2.7 million in December 2013;

  • „„7 million people in more than 20,500 communities now live in cleaner environments free of open defecation, up from 3.7 million in 14,400 communities in December 2013;

  • „„More than 37,300 communities have participated in demand creation/triggering activities, up from 24,500 in December 2013.

Successfully assembling and managing an organization and carrying out a worldwide initiative of WSSCC's scope and scale is no mean feat. Its latest results testify to the progress it is achieving.

The GSF reported a nearly 90 percent increase in the number of communities across 13 countries in Africa and Asia that are now “open-defecation free” between 2013 and 2014 alone. The number of people that now have access to improved toilets in these countries rose 55 percent.

“In Uganda, there are now more than 1.4 million people living in open-defecation free (ODF) environments, thanks to GSF-funded activities, and close to 3 million people have been reached by hygiene messages as a result of decentralized local government intervention,” the council highlights.

“In Madagascar, over 1.3 million people are now living in ODF environments – in all 22 of the countries regions – and India’s GSF-supported programme has over 782,000 people with handwashing facilities.

“Access to improved sanitation has to be a sustainable reality for every person in the community, regardless of age, gender or disability, in order for the health and other benefits to be enjoyed by all,” GSF program director, David Shimkus, was quoted as saying. “This report shows that GSF-supported programs are making major strides in achieving improved sanitation and hygiene for the most vulnerable, and all stakeholders will continue to work together to ensure such progress continues.”

Image credits: WSSC, GSF

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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