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World Toilet Day 2020 and why sanitation matters

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World Toilet Day 2020 World Toilet Day 2020

Today is World Toilet Day - a day to raise awareness of the importance of sanitation and inspire collective action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

Investing in sanitation is necessary to prevent needless deaths, improve lives and livelihoods and provide dignity. Yet, 4.2 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation, often with women and girls suffering the most from this deprivation. Moreover, untreated human waste permeates the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. Access to sustainable sanitation services, combined with the proper handwashing facilities and know-how needed to practice good hygiene, are strong defenses against COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks.

But even before the COVID outbreak, our research conducted in 18 countries around the world showed that it’s poor children who suffer the most from inadequate sanitation. Intestinal diseases related to poor sanitation, along with malnutrition and infections, contribute to stunting - one of the most serious and irreversible developmental problems facing children and impacting their future livelihoods as productive adults. In many countries, poor sanitation catalyzes a vicious cycle of poverty. Poor sanitation costs some countries billions, while the total global costs of inadequate sanitation are estimated at US$ 260 billion per year, on average.

From rural areas to urban areas, the World Bank’s sanitation team has been working together with partners to deliver sustainable sanitation for all.

Delivering Rural Sanitation Programs at Scale, with Equity and Sustainability

World Toilet Day 2020

The sanitation crisis is most acute in rural areas, which are home to 91 percent of the people who defecate in the open and 72 percent of those without basic sanitation. However, making sanitation and hygiene a political priority and investing the required resources remains a struggle for many countries.

The World Bank joined forces with Plan International UK, SNV, UNICEF, WaterAid and WSSCC in a call to action for all stakeholders to not only renew their commitment to rural sanitation and hygiene, but to also step up their ambitions and investments. At the Bank, the teams working on rural sanitation programs are also walking the talk to deliver on this commitment to foster government leadership, strengthen local capacities, increase coordination, tailor approaches to context, and constantly learn and adapt.

Our rural sanitation programs adopt transformative models and have four elements for success, perhaps best illustrated in the Bank’s support to the Government of India’ Swachh Bharat (Clean India Mission). These are:

    • Political leadership. Engendering and sustaining political commitment at the highest level is needed to create the political, societal, industrial and behavioral changes needed to manage sanitation better and deliver services to more people efficiently.
    • Public finance. The pandemic has highlighted decades of underinvestment in the sanitation sector.
    • Partnerships, including with the private sector, will be critical for addressing the sanitation crisis. Action at scale will mean maximizing finance for development, as well as crowding in the private sector in service delivery and around resilience and reuse.
    • People’s participation. Citizens’ awareness, participation and, importantly, buy-in, will be needed to transform the sanitation sector.

Accelerating Citywide Inclusive Sanitation

As the world urbanizes, the challenges of urban sanitation continue to increase.

Business as usual—where conventional centralized sewerage and wastewater treatment are considered as the only solution—will not, on its own, allow us to meet the SDG goal of providing safely managed sanitation for all by 2030. Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) aims to shift the urban sanitation paradigm to focus on the whole sanitation service chain and access for all, especially the poor. CWIS promotes a range of solutions—both onsite and sewered, centralized or decentralized—tailored to the realities of the world's burgeoning cities and encourages focusing on service provision and its enabling environment rather than on just building infrastructure.

Together with other key partners, the World Bank has been at the forefront of the growing CWIS movement. The Bank’s CWIS initiative, funded by the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), provides support to Bank teams and their government counterparts under four pillars: Knowledge and Learning; Operational Support; Tools and Resources; and Building Partnerships. Go to the CWIS web hub, launched ahead of World Toilet Day, to learn more.

Connecting the Unconnected

Connecting the Unconnected

Where sewers are used as part of a city’s response to urban sanitation, a reoccurring challenge is commonly found – despite their proximity to trunk sewerage infrastructure, too many households choose not to connect to the sewers for various social, economic or other related reasons. In addition, service providers continue to focus their attention and resources on the design and construction of trunk infrastructure by using approaches that don’t always meet the needs of burgeoning cities with diverse socio-economic neighborhoods. The focus on infrastructure, instead of on connections, affects access to sewerage services. So, even though progress has been made, challenges remain.

Today, the World Bank also released a new guide titled “Connecting the Unconnected”, which looks at the reasons why so many households still get left behind and remain unconnected to existing or new sewer networks. The report also provides an overview and lessons from global experiences in order to identify the elements that can help maximize connections to sewers, including for low-income households, while drawing on the principles of the Citywide Inclusive Sanitation approach.

On November 19, spare a thought for the millions around the world who lack this most basic of services; think about the critical role of sanitation in health, economic growth, the environment and human dignity; and join us in celebrating the good work around the world to achieve water and sanitation for all by 2030.




Martin Gambrill

Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist

Susanna Smets

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

Li Lou

Communications Officer, World Bank

Meriem Gray

Senior Communications Officer

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