Campaign calls for action to transform lives

WaterAid is uniting with organisations and communities in South Asia and calling on governments to keep their promises to improve access to sanitation.


18 Mar 2013 | UK

Politicians from the UK and across South Asia are adding their support to the campaign by attending the launch in Nepal, which takes place on 19 March, the week of World Water Day. Launch activities also taking place in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Girish Menon, Director of International Programmes at WaterAid, said: "Sanitation in South Asia is at crisis point and it requires urgent action. Despite no shortage of high-level political commitments, the overall progress of sanitation, particularly reaching poor and vulnerable communities, is unsatisfactory.

"Through the launch of a regional sanitation campaign, we will highlight the fact that water and sanitation are the building blocks out of poverty, underlying all areas of development, to encourage governments to take immediate action."

Across the region, one billion people have nowhere safe to go to the toilet with 700 million people practising open defecation. Diarrhoea caused by a lack of access to safe water and sanitation is the second leading disease cause of under-five deaths in the region, claiming the lives of 300,000 children every year.

The campaign calls on South Asian governments to ensure the right to sanitation and water is realised across the region by:

  • Producing clear budget lines specifically for sanitation and hygiene
  • Increasing budget allocation for the provision of sustainable sanitation services by 5% annually
  • Allocating 20% of the sanitation budget for poor, marginalised and hard to reach communities to ensure equitable distribution
  • Recommending clear and strong sanitation targets in the follow up to the Millennium Development Goals

Two UK parliamentarians, the Earl of Sandwich and Lord McColl, will join government ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and the Maldives to support the launch of the regional campaign. Together, they will issue a statement on the urgent need for action on sanitation and will participate in a solidarity march with civil society organisations and thousands of community members.

Virendra Sharma, MP for Southall, has pledged to raise the urgent issue of sanitation with DFID ministers and also discuss these matters with the Shadow International Development team to ensure improving access to sanitation in South Asia is part of the Labour Party future International Development policy.

Virendra said: "It's hard for us to imagine life without a toilet, but this is a daily reality faced by two thirds of the South Asian population. This is more than just an inconvenience; it is a crisis that impacts on health, safety, dignity and education, as well as the overall development of the region, and it requires urgent action.

"I hope the UK Government will ensure the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene to development is emphasised to the High Level Panel deciding on post-2015 targets."

As well as having a significant impact on health, dignity, education, and livelihoods, investing in sanitation makes economical sense, with every £1 spent on water and sanitation returning an average of £4 in increased productivity.

Before Sita Devi Pahadi from Sindhuli district, Nepal, had toilets, she said they felt ashamed: “People might see us defecating in an open place. We felt embarrassed. Now, we do not face problems when we need to defecate in the daytime. Even diarrhoea has reduced significantly.

"I am a member of the village Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Co-ordination Committee. I have lots of respect and am more confident."

Read more about the campaign background and objectives.