Eco-sanitation at a secondary school in Tamil Nadu, India

Eco-sanitation at a secondary school in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: S.Paramasivan / David Crossweller / SuSanA Secretariat, Flickr.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reaffirmed the ambition of providing “access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all”. But what does that mean?

While attention is often paid to toilets and sanitation services at the household level – including in the monitoring system being discussed for the SDGs – most people spend a good chunk of their lives outside the home. Universal access to sanitation – for all people, all of the time – means ensuring services are available in schools, health centres, refugee camps and all types of formal or informal workplaces.

For all children

Access to toilets in schools and day-care centres is critical to providing a safe and healthy learning environment.  Young children are particularly vulnerable to health risks associated with unsafe sanitation, including infectious diseases such as cholera, worms and trachoma. Diarrhoea is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children under five years of age in developing countries, imposing a significant global health burden.

Undernutrition is frequently connected to diarrhoeal disease and this pernicious challenge is the focus on this year’s World Toilet Day events. Diarrhoea makes it harder for children to absorb and use nutrients, and can leave them with long-term cognitive deficits, with poorer school performance and lower economic productivity as adults.

Source: Independent Research Forum IRF2015.org