WaterAid steps up advocacy on lack of toilets

A grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation puts the global sanitation crisis at the forefront of advocacy efforts.

Jan 9 2014 | New York, NY

WaterAid announced today a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that puts the global sanitation crisis at the forefront of advocacy efforts aimed at improving the lives of millions of people living without toilets or sanitation in Ghana, India and Senegal.

The $2 million grant comes at a time when support for the sanitation crisis is critical: 2.5 billion people, nearly two fifths of the world’s population, do not have access to a toilet.

Poor sanitation contributes to 1.5 million child deaths from diarrhea each year. When there is nowhere safe and clean to go to the bathroom, disease spreads quickly, water sources become polluted and women and girls face an increased risk of rape or attack.

“Investing in advocacy around toilets and sanitation is one of the smartest, most effective ways we have to combat extreme poverty,” said WaterAid America CEO, David Winder. “Health, quality of life and poverty levels are radically impacted when people, especially women and girls, have access to toilets and hygiene education.”

Over the course of the next two and a half years, WaterAid will use this contribution to drive political commitment and action in Ghana, India and Senegal by supporting initiatives led by those governments to increase access to basic sanitation services.

In the US, the grant will bolster efforts to ensure that the United States, as a donor country, supports improved accountability and data collection worldwide and is focused on sanitation solutions that resonate most for affected communities, including by increasing the linkages between sanitation and other health efforts, such as improved nutrition and ending preventable child deaths.

“Advocacy is critical to creating widespread lasting change and it is an honor to work so closely with a foundation that shares our emphasis on influencing the design and implementation of policies for the poorest people worldwide,” noted Winder. “We are grateful for their leadership, and delighted to be partnering with them yet again.”

The World Health Organization estimates that $220 billion would be returned to the global economy each year if the world were to achieve universal access to sanitation; yet financing for toilets and sanitation is abysmal in comparison to other development sectors such as health and education.

“The sanitation crisis cannot be solved by any one organization alone,” noted WaterAid America Director of Policy and Advocacy, Lisa Schechtman. “WaterAid firmly believes that governments have a responsibility to their citizens to ensure that toilets and sanitation are available to everyone. We look forward to continuing to advocate for change exactly where it’s needed most.”