Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Global conference focuses on the poor's poor access to sanitation facilities

Professionals and activists at a global conference on sanitation and hygiene on Wednesday, stressed the need for coordinated efforts from the government and non-government organizations. Removal of institutional and cultural barriers is required to ensure that all, including those who are marginalized or physically-challenged, have access to proper sanitation facilities.
The six-day Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene (GFSH) was held in the Indian city of Mumbai on Monday 9 October, and began with a call for all out efforts to ensure that everyone across the world has access to toilets and safe water to prevent deaths from diarrhoeal diseases.

Nearly 500 sanitation and hygiene professionals, officials, activists and journalists from 70 countries participated in the first ever GFSH to share experiences for strengthening regional and global collaboration to save millions of people who die each year due to lack of sanitary and hygienic practices. Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), with support from the Indian government, organized the conference which ended on October 14.

Participants said that nations must ensure adequate sanitation facilities for their people to achieve sustainable development. Sanitary toilets and pure drinking water must be made accessible and affordable for everybody—even those who are 'differently-abled'.

Addressing a working session at the conference, Nomathemba Neseni, Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe, said the issue of sanitation is now regarded as a human right and people have to change their attitude and language while talking about it.
She said that the reality is that women have to depend on men for money and infrastructure to ensure their sanitation.

The governments must have demand-responsive planning to make sure that poor people have access to services.

An estimated 2.26 billion people worldwide live without toilets, although the United Nations declared sanitation and water as basic human rights last year. Farhan Sami, country team leader of WSP in Pakistan, said that fund (shortage) was not the main problem to ensuring people’s access to toilets. "The governments must have demand-responsive planning to make sure that poor people have access to services."

Almost all speakers, especially those from South Asia and African countries, underlined the need for a mechanism to check corruption: widely regarded as a major barrier to overall development of a country. They also demanded legislation for ensuring sanitation as a human right.

Rokeya Ahmed, water and sanitation specialist at the World Bank’s Dhaka office, said Bangladesh has still a long way to go before reaching complete coverage of sanitation issues. "Although Bangladesh set the goal of achieving sanitation for all by the year 2013, only 54 people have access to improved sanitation facilities in the country", she told New Age.

Read another article on the event at New Age 

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