The bottom line is: Sanitation for all
A global campaign is being launched to tackle the "shameful" sanitation situation throughout the developing world. Donors, UN agencies, NGOs and developing country professionals have agreed that concerted action is needed to end the squalid, health-threatening conditions endured by some three billion people. They are committed to GESI — The Global Environmental Sanitation Initiative — intended to accelerate achievement of the goal of hygienic sanitation for all people as soon as possible in the coming Millennium.
The decision to mobilize resources through a joint campaign was taken in Manila, Philippines on 7 November, at the final session of a Forum organized by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) with the theme: Water and sanitation for all: Calling all stakeholders. The Council’s incoming Chairperson Richard Jolly, Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator and architect of the Human Development Report, described the global picture as "a scandal" which must be recognized at the highest level. His predecessor, Margaret Catley-Carlson, President of the Population Council, pointed out that in the next 50 years between two and three billion more people will be added to the world population, massively increasing the sanitation challenge. Highlighting women as the unused key to faster sanitation progress, she urged "the systematic inclusion of women in the planning, design, execution and maintenance of water supply and sanitation systems", to help marry the professionals’ view of sanitation as a health and environmental issue with the people’s desire for greater privacy.
All Council members were emphatic that the current sanitation situation is putting an increasing burden on countries’ social and economic development plans and aggravating the already intolerable living conditions of the rural and urban poor.
Gourisankar Ghosh, Chief of UNICEF’s Water and Environmental Sanitation Section, who proposed the global initiative, highlighted the unacceptably high death toll and morbidity rate among the urban poor living in unsanitary conditions.
Dennis Warner, Chief of Rural Environmental Health in the World Health Organization, described the growing gap between those with safe water supplies and those with adequate sanitation, adding that "we should all be ashamed about the deplorable sanitation backlog".
Ebele Okeke, Deputy Director, Water Supply in Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources, was one of many Council members from developing countries to express support for an intensive effort "to move sanitation forward" as a major contribution to poverty alleviation, social stability and economic development.
Following the Manila decision, the Collaborative Council is to coordinate the global campaign. It will help all agencies active in the sanitation sector to share information, foster cooperative programmes, and initiate an advocacy campaign to raise public and political awareness of the urgent need for action. Individual countries and agencies will remain responsible for their own activities, but may be expected to respond positively to the global call for more resources to be devoted to sanitation improvements.
The Manila meeting involved 230 of the world’s leading practitioners in the field of water supply and sanitation from more than 80 countries. They heard reports from expert groups and reviewed guidelines, codes of conduct and practical tools to help countries to increase water and sanitation coverage more rapidly. As a result of decisions taken in Manila, the Council will now also operate on a regional basis, with Regional Chapters or Focal Points in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe & the Newly Independent States, and the Small Island Developing States. The regional sections will participate in the Council’s continuing analysis, advocacy and communication in five major topic areas: Environmental Sanitation; Community Management and Partnerships with Civil Society; Institutional Issues; Human Resources Development; and Water Demand Management and Conservation. They will also establish their own regional networks for sharing knowledge and experience, and reinforce the Council’s global networks on Operation and Maintenance, Applied Research (GARNET), Gender Issues in Water Supply and Sanitation (GEN-NET), and Services for the Urban Poor.
A Council Task Force has been established to develop VISION 21, a long-range vision of a world in which all people have access to adequate water and sanitation services, as a basis for short and medium term targets for achieving that vision. As Richard Jolly said in Manila: "At present rates of progress we would not achieve sanitation for all by the Year 2100, that is totally unacceptable". The Vision 21 Task Force will analyze successes and failures of the last two decades and seek ways to impress on politicians and key decision makers the need to adopt policies which will bring much faster progress towards the goal of Sanitation for All.
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