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Recognizing the impact of sanitation on health, the environment, poverty reduction and economic and social development, the United Nations has declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation (IYS). The IYS initiative will spotlight the seriousness of the global sanitation crisis and kick-start efforts to accelerate progress for meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving, by 2015, the proportion of the world’s population without sustainable access to basic sanitation
IYS focuses on five key messages that underline both the benefits of improved sanitation and the need for action:
1 Sanitation is vital for human health. Poor sanitation and hygiene causes death and disease.
2 Sanitation generates economic benefits. Improved sanitation has positive impacts on economic growth and poverty reduction.
3 Sanitation contributes to dignity and social development. Sanitation enhances dignity, privacy and safety, especially for women and girls.
4 Sanitation helps the environment. Improved disposal of human waste protects the quality of drinking-water sources and improves community environments.
5 Improving sanitation is achievable. Working together, households, communities, governments, support agencies, civil society and the private sector have the resources, technologies and know-how to achieve the sanitation target.
UNICEF plays many roles in the IYS initiative. As chair of the UN-Water working group on sanitation, UNICEF is helping to coordinate all global IYS events and activities. Together with WHO, UNICEF is responsible for monitoring sanitation worldwide through the Joint Monitoring Programme. UNICEF is also the focal point for sanitation and hygiene in emergencies and in schools.
At the country level, UNICEF is working with governments and other stakeholders to develop IYS roadmaps (such as the one in Nigeria – see box) as well as raising public awareness and advocating for additional funding for national programmes. Finally, using its extensive network of country-level WASH programmes, UNICEF is helping to develop key building blocks for accelerating progress including support to the creation of enabling policy and institutional environments, the development of new strategies for improved service delivery and – most important of all – promoting behaviour change to ensure the sustainability of sanitation programmes for years to come.