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Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) | International Year of Sanitation 2008 IYS Toolkits (external link)) | Global UNDP Assessment Exercise to Promote Water & Sanitation (related workspace) UNDP (regional) programme on HRBA to Water Governance
Related WaterWiki-articles: UN Committee urges states to take sanitation seriously | 10 Things You Need To Know About Sanitation | Access to WSS for the poor | Q&A: "Sanitation is a political orphin" | Dry Sanitation Technology | Water and Health | International Decade for Action: Water for Life | Overview of the Global Sanitation Problem | Rethinking Sanitation: Lessons and Innovation for Sustainability and Success in the New Millennium | Sanitation as a Key to Global Health:Voices From the Field
Related resources: UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of Drinking Water and Sanitation (GLAAS) 2010 | Fast Facts: Clean Water and Sanitation for the Poor | A Framework for Action on Water and Sanitation | HDR 2006 - Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis | The Human Rights-Based Approach to Development - The Right to Water | Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) | Swiss Public-Private Partnerships for Water Supply and Sanitation | Projects on Sanitation in Europe & CIS | Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox

Video by WECF on the Right to Sanitation and situation in Eastern Europe


2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation. A toilet is not the first thing that comes to mind as a major driver of human development.

Terms & Synonyms

Official WHO Definition

The means of collecting and disposing of excrete and community liquid waste in a hygienic way so as not to endanger the health of individuals or the community as a whole (WHO 1992).

Access to safe water and to sanitary means of excreta disposal are universal needs and, indeed, basic human rights. They are essential elements of human development and poverty alleviation and constitute an indispensable component of primary health care. There is evidence that provision of adequate sanitation services, safe water supply, and hygiene education represents an effective health intervention that reduces the mortality and the related morbidity caused by diarrhoeal disease. Inadequate sanitation, hygiene and water result not only in more sickness and death, but also in higher health costs, lower worker productivity, lower school enrollment and retention rates of girls and, perhaps most importantly, the denial of the rights of all people to live in dignity (WHO 1992).

Other Definitions


Interpretations and Explanations

Terms and Synonyms

Basic Sanitation Worldwide

(Source: WorldMapper Territory size shows the proportion of people living with access to basic sanitation that live there. Basic sanitation includes pit latrines and toilets with cesspits, but not those linked to mains sewerage systems.)

Basic sanitation means access to pit latrines or toilets linked to a cesspit, but not to a sewerage system. These might be private or shared. Almost half (48%) of the world population use this type of sanitation.

Those who do not have access to basic sanitation either have poor sanitation facilities, or are linked to a mains sewerage system. Of the populations of Rwanda and the United Kingdom, 7% have access to basic sanitation. In Rwanda 92% have no access to good toilets; in the United Kingdom 92% of people have access to toilets that are attached to mains sewerage systems.

Poor Sanitation Worldwide

(Source: WorldMapper Territory size shows the proportion of all people without access to basic sanitation (toilets) that live there)

Of all the people in the world, 39.8% of us do not have access to basic sanitation. This means living within walking distance of private or shared (not public) latrines or toilets that effectively prevent human and animal contact with excreta.

In Indonesia 98 million people, or 45% of the population, do not have access to good latrines. More people in Indonesia live without access to good toilets than in the whole of South America. Of the South American population, 22% live without good sanitation.

In Southern Asia and Central Africa, 65% of people live without access to basic sanitation.

Sewerage Sanitation Worldwide

(Source: WorldMapper Territory size shows the proportion of all people that have their toilets connected to public sewerage systems (and thus waste water treatment) that live there)

In more that three quarters of territories fewer than 10% of the population has access to toilets that are connected, via sewers, to a waste water treatment plant. In 8 regions less than 5% of people are connected to sewerage systems.

Sewerage systems remove waste from housing areas and treat it. This helps to reduce contamination of water courses used for drinking and washing water. Only very good pit latrines or cesspits do the same job.

In six territories over 90% of people are connected to sewerage systems, the highest is the Netherlands with 98% connected.

Global networks

Building Partnerships for Development in Water and Sanitation

Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)

Private Sector Participation

Swiss Public-Private Partnerships for Water Supply and Sanitation

Gender and Sanitation

Gender Guidelines Water Supply and Sanitation

A Gender Perspective on Water Resources and Sanitation


WHO (1992) A guide to the development of on-site sanitation

WHO Health topics: SanitationWHO (2002)

Healthy villages: a guide for communities and community health workers

WHO (2003) Linking technology choice with operation and maintenance in the context of community water supply and sanitation: A reference document for planners and project staff

UNEP (1997) Water pollution control: a guide to the use of water quality management principles

WHO Lexicon page (translations and examples)

See also

25 most recently edited WaterWiki articles on Sanitation

External Resources

Sewerage Sanitation Worldwide on

Poor Sanitation Worldwide on

Basic Sanitation Worldwide on

UN Water for Life, 2005- 2015

International Year of Sanitation 2008


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