2015 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are behind us. The new global goals for sustainable development are expected to inspire and create a new determination for all of us. What has IRC learned during 2015 and how are we moving ahead in 2016?
Blog by Erick Baetings, Senior sanitation specialist, IRC
Haiphong City, Viet Nam. Photo: Erick Baetings, IRC
Although a lot has been achieved the world has fallen short on the MDG sanitation target, leaving 2.4 billion people without access to improved sanitation facilities. Globally, it is estimated that 82 per cent of the urban population now use improved sanitation facilities, compared with 51 per cent of the rural population.
What is the case for urban sanitation?
Rapid urbanisation in many parts of the developing world is putting increasing strain on the ability of municipalities to deliver critical services, such as water and sanitation. More than half the world’s population (54 per cent) live in urban areas. Urbanisation combined with the overall growth of the world’s population is projected to add another 2.5 billion people to the urban populations by 2050, with close to 90 percent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. As a result, many developing countries will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations. In a number of regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, population growth has already outpaced gains in sanitation coverage in urban areas.
Inclusion and equality
Inclusive and equitable access to improved sanitation facilities is still far away. Inequalities between richest and poorest 20 per cent of the population are found in all regions but may vary according to the type and level of service. Inequalities hinder efforts to reduce poverty and to stimulate economic growth, resulting in a negative impact on society as a whole. Therefore, ideally, more should be done for the poor than the rich, allowing the gap to narrow and ultimately disappear over time.
Moving beyond toilets and containment
Access to improved sanitation facilities does not necessarily translate into environmentally safe practices as even appropriately captured human waste is often improperly stored, transported, or disposed. To date, global monitoring has focused primarily on the containment of human excreta, where a sanitation facility is considered to be improved if it hygienically separates human excreta from human contact. This is now considered to be grossly inadequate as it does not address the subsequent management of faecal waste along the entire sanitation service chain, from containment through emptying, transport, treatment, and reuse or disposal. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) states that over 2 billion people in urban areas use toilets connected to onsite septic tanks or latrine pits that are not safely emptied or that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters.
The challenge is to keep up with the growing urban population, to ensure equitable access to improved sanitation services, and to address the entire sanitation service chain.