Thursday, 03 December 2020

UN in your language

Unglamorous but fit for a Prince

The Prince of Orange with Ban Ki-moonThe reason most often mentioned for the lack of progress in improving sanitation worldwide is that it is a taboo subject and that access to toilets and clean water are subjects not fit for fine society.

Not so says the heir to the Dutch crown, the Prince of Orange, His Royal Highness Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

The Prince has been a prominent advocate in raising awareness and urging action worldwide to improve the global water and sanitation situation. He has been Patron of the Global Water Partnership since 1998 and Chairperson of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation

In that capacity he attended the launch last spring of “Sustainable Sanitation: The Five-Year-Drive to 2015,” a major push by the UN to improve the health and well-being of millions of people worldwide. The Prince noted that sanitation is arguably the most overlooked and less advanced MDG target.

“It is unglamorous, yet vital,” he stated. “Neglecting the need for proper toilets allows a slow moving crisis to continue.”

The main messages of the new drive, the Prince added, are that sanitation is vital for health, brings dignity, equality and safety, represents a good economic investment and sustains clean environments.

Sanitation maybe unglamorous sanitation but it is vital. The definition is access to, and use of, excreta and wastewater facilities and services that ensure privacy and dignity, ensuring a clean and healthy living environment for all.

“Clean water and sanitation are not only about hygiene and disease, they’re about dignity, too. “Everyone, and that means ALL the people in the world, has the right to a healthy life and a life with dignity. In other words: everyone has the right to sanitation,” says Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

3 Questions to Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.


  • Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces. The word 'sanitation' also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.


  • Access to sanitation has been recognized by the UN as a human right, a basic service required to live a normal life.


  • The second component of MDG Target 7.C is to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation. Current rates of progress towards this are insufficient. If current trends continue, this component of Target 7.C will not be met (World Health Statistics 2011, WHO)


  • Most countries that are not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target are in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia


  • The United Nations estimates that 2.6 billion people, nearly 40% of the worlds population, still lack access to improved sanitation and around 1.2 billion practice open defecation. An estimated 1.6 million people, mostly children under the age of 5, die each year from water and sanitation-related diseases.


  • Cross-country studies show that the method of disposing of excreta is one of the strongest determinants of child survival: the transition from unimproved to improved sanitation reduces overall child mortality by about a third. Children under five are the most vulnerable to poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation, two of the major causes of diarrhoea. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the disease kills at least 1.2 million children under five each year.


  • “Sanitation is a sensitive issue. It is an unpopular subject. Perhaps that is why the sanitation crisis has not been met with the kind of response we need,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said .


  •        He added that focusing on total hygiene does more than improve health. “It can also improve the safety of women and girls, who are often targeted when they are alone outdoors. And providing safe, private toilets may also help girls stay in school – which we know can increase their future earnings and help break the cycle of poverty.”