Access to sanitation

From the Millennium Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals

In the area of sanitation, the Millennium Development Goals, which called for halving the number of people worldwide without access to basic sanitation by 2015, have not been met. As the population has grown from 6 to 7 billion, the share of those who continue to have no access to toilets has remained almost the same: around 2.5 billion people, all of them the poorest.

 The situation remains severe in terms of sanitation, with a reduction of only 7% compared to 1990 and extremely low coverage rates: 1 in 3 people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; 1 in 2 in East Asia; 1 in 10 in Jakarta and Manila. Sanitation remains the most neglected area of public policy in the so-called "developing countries".

The rate achieved only 67% coverage, well below the 75% required to meet the target. Since 1990, 1.8 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation facilities.

China and India account for just under half of global progress in sanitation. 593 million people in China and 251 million in India have gained access to improved sanitation facilities since 1990. China accounts for more than 95% of sanitation progress in East Asia (source: UN-DESA - United Nations Economic and Social Department).

The greatest progress was achieved in East and South Asia and the slowest in West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, (United Nations Economic and Social Department).

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals programme with, among the 17 goals, a target on water and sanitation that aims to guarantee access to water and sanitation for all and to ensure sustainable management of water resources by 2030. 2015 was a historic year for water and sanitation with a fully dedicated target. It remains to be seen whether the high ambitions for water will actually translate into real progress in 2030.

Sanitation, a process in a chain of decisions

Sanitation must be considered as a process, a chain of decisions, and not as the aggregation of decisions taken in isolation, without consultation. It is necessary to have a global vision from the creation of the waste to its treatment and release into the natural environment, in a residual form or not, according to criteria adjusted in technical, financial or social acceptability terms. These components form an indissociable whole. Social acceptability, a necessary and sufficient condition, is as important as having funds, a necessary condition.


* 2.5 billion people, half of them in the so-called "developing" countries, still do not have access to toilets or any other form of improved sanitation.

* 7 people die every minute from unsafe water.

* 1.2 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open, a phenomenon that particularly affects rural areas, with India being the most affected.

* Equipping schools with clean and safe toilets is a factor in girls' enrolment.

* The practice poses a health risk associated with the spread of diseases, such as diarrhea, to entire communities.

Lack of access to sanitation costs the world $260 billion per year.

80% of the world's wastewater is untreated.

* Every 19th of November, Toilet Day is celebrated.