UN Secretary-General's message on World Toilet Day, 19 November 2020

  • Mr Antonio Guterres says, "The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of sanitation, safe water and handwashing facilities to stop the spread of infectious diseases."

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of sanitation, safe water and handwashing facilities to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Everyone should have access to hygienic, safe, sustainable sanitation. That is the only way to ensure health for all. 

But around the world today, 4.2 billion people are without safe sanitation. Two billion of these people – more than one quarter of the global population – lack basic sanitation, undermining health, dignity, and economic development.  

However, rapid progress on sanitation is possible. Many countries have transformed their sanitation facilities and services within a generation, through programmes including the universal provision of toilets, and improved treatment and use of wastewater. This has had knock-on benefits for their health systems and economies, and for the environment.  

Achieving water and sanitation for all would cost an estimated 1.5 percent of global Gross Domestic Product, and would bring considerable economic benefits with an estimated return of more than four dollars for every dollar invested.

Today’s sanitation services must be resilient, in order to deal with shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless we act now, the climate crisis will disrupt sanitation services for millions. We need innovative thinking around sanitation services so they are fit for the future.

On World Toilet Day, let’s resolve to take action to deliver health and sanitation for billions of people around the world, today and for future generations.  

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