BRIEF

Sanitation: Facts, Figures, Resources

September 23, 2014

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Read related blogs from World Bank staff on water and sanitation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Learn more about Goal 6.

 



EXPLORE: INFOGRAPHICS | PRESS RELEASES | FEATURE STORIES | BLOGS | Q&A

Q&A

What does it mean to live without improved sanitation?

With no access to improved sanitation, people must defecate in the open -- in the bush, field, or forest -- or use a pit latrine without a slab, bucket toilets, hanging toilets/ latrines, or toilets that “flush” untreated into the environment.

What is the human impact of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation?

Lack of access to sanitation carries significant human costs. Poor sanitation, water, and hygiene lead to about 700,000 premature deaths annually. It is also estimated that 443 million school days are lost every year due to water, sanitation, and hygiene related diseases. Women who lack access are forced to go out in open areas, and are more susceptible to sexual harassment and violence. Girls often drop out when their school lacks private sanitation facilities.

How are developing economies affected?

The impact is felt across health, education, the environment, as well as industries such as tourism. Economic losses from lack of access to sanitation amount to an estimated US$260 billion annually, more than the entire gross domestic product of Chile.

Is there an economic incentive for public investment in sanitation?

In 2012, the World Health Organization estimated that the global economic return on sanitation spending is US$5.5 dollar for every one dollar invested. At the 2014 Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting, ministers of finance, water, sanitation and development cooperation from developing countries tabled 319 commitments designed to speed up access.

If everyone in the world had a toilet, would that fix the problem?

The challenge can’t be solved with toilets alone. It’s also an issue of institutions, governments and behavior change. Local governments need clear policy frameworks and standards to ensure quality consistency along the service chain. In addition to a strong enabling environment, efforts need to also focus on changing behaviors and social norms around open defecation, which is practiced by some 1 billion people worldwide.

What are the challenges for delivering sanitation services in urban areas?

Densely-occupied urban areas do not have space or expertise to properly dispose of excreta or to relocate toilets when they are full, making fecal sludge management a major issue. A well-coordinated system of services is required in urban areas and failure in any part of the service chain, from emptying toilets to transport and treatment, has serious public health consequences, degrades the urban environment, and is diminishing quality of life.

Do rural areas face the same challenges in increasing access to improved sanitation?  

In less populated rural areas, sanitation products and supplies may not be readily available. In addition, when faced with competing demands for expenditures, households may not always prioritize sanitation and as a result, the entire community pays the consequences. Investment for demand creation in rural areas has been found to be effective when communities are targeted for behavior change interventions (such as stopping open defecation); when the private sector is strengthened and when an enabling environment is supported.

Can the public sector alone create the demand and deliver the supply?

Governments alone cannot meet this massive challenge. To realistically accelerate access to 2.4 billion people, the public sector needs to leverage the private sector’s know-how and investment. Partnering with the local private sector can tap into their capacity to innovate affordable and aspirational products for poorer households, strengthen distribution and supply chains, and apply the best social and commercial marketing practices to change behavior, which is essential for sanitation.

INFOGRAPHICS

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Related: What's a Toilet Worth? Full size global | South Asia | Indonesia | Nicaragua

PRESS RELEASES

Teresina to promote social inclusion and access to water and sanitation in vulnerable Lagoas do Norte region (02/24/2016)
More Money and Better Service Delivery: A Winning Combination for Achieving Drinking Water and Sanitation Targets (02/12/2016)
United Nations, World Bank Group Launch High Level Panel on Water (01/21/2016)
Government of India and World Bank sign $178.50 Million Agreement for Neeranchal National Watershed Project (01/14/2016)
More >>

FEATURE STORIES

China: Keeping the Water and Environment Clean in the Qiantang River Basin (02/29/2016)
Modernizing Uzbekistan’s Water Sector – with Citizen Engagement (02/11/2016)
Ending Open Defecation and Achieving a Clean and Healthy Rural India (12/15/2015)
More >>

BLOGS

Can we really put a price on meeting the global targets on drinking-water and sanitation? (02/12/2016)
SACOSAN VI: An opportunity for South Asian leaders to focus on sanitation and the Sustainable Development Goals (01/12/2016)
Better together: Toilets and nutrition (11/19/2015)
More >>

Q&A

What does it mean to live without improved sanitation?

With no access to improved sanitation, people must defecate in the open -- in the bush, field, or forest -- or use a pit latrine without a slab, bucket toilets, hanging toilets/ latrines, or toilets that “flush” untreated into the environment.

What is the human impact of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation?

Lack of access to sanitation carries significant human costs. Poor sanitation, water, and hygiene lead to about 700,000 premature deaths annually. It is also estimated that 443 million school days are lost every year due to water, sanitation, and hygiene related diseases. Women who lack access are forced to go out in open areas, and are more susceptible to sexual harassment and violence. Girls often drop out when their school lacks private sanitation facilities.

How are developing economies affected?

The impact is felt across health, education, the environment, as well as industries such as tourism. Economic losses from lack of access to sanitation amount to an estimated US$260 billion annually, more than the entire gross domestic product of Chile.

Is there an economic incentive for public investment in sanitation?

In 2012, the World Health Organization estimated that the global economic return on sanitation spending is US$5.5 dollar for every one dollar invested. At the 2014 Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting, ministers of finance, water, sanitation and development cooperation from developing countries tabled 319 commitments designed to speed up access.

If everyone in the world had a toilet, would that fix the problem?

The challenge can’t be solved with toilets alone. It’s also an issue of institutions, governments and behavior change. Local governments need clear policy frameworks and standards to ensure quality consistency along the service chain. In addition to a strong enabling environment, efforts need to also focus on changing behaviors and social norms around open defecation, which is practiced by some 1 billion people worldwide.

What are the challenges for delivering sanitation services in urban areas?

Densely-occupied urban areas do not have space or expertise to properly dispose of excreta or to relocate toilets when they are full, making fecal sludge management a major issue. A well-coordinated system of services is required in urban areas and failure in any part of the service chain, from emptying toilets to transport and treatment, has serious public health consequences, degrades the urban environment, and is diminishing quality of life.

Do rural areas face the same challenges in increasing access to improved sanitation?  

In less populated rural areas, sanitation products and supplies may not be readily available. In addition, when faced with competing demands for expenditures, households may not always prioritize sanitation and as a result, the entire community pays the consequences. Investment for demand creation in rural areas has been found to be effective when communities are targeted for behavior change interventions (such as stopping open defecation); when the private sector is strengthened and when an enabling environment is supported.

Can the public sector alone create the demand and deliver the supply?

Governments alone cannot meet this massive challenge. To realistically accelerate access to 2.5 billion people, the public sector needs to leverage the private sector’s know-how and investment. Partnering with the local private sector can tap into their capacity to innovate affordable and aspirational products for poorer households, strengthen distribution and supply chains, and apply the best social and commercial marketing practices to change behavior, which is essential for sanitation.

Last Updated: Mar 07, 2016