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International Year of Sanitation 2008

© UNICEF/ HQ97-0514/Maggie Murray-Lee
After using the toilets, children wash their hands under a water container provided by UNICEF and bearing the UNICEF logo, at a school in the village of Bereket, in the district of Keneurgench.
Gearing up for the International Year of Sanitation 2008

On 7 May, 2007, experts from the private and public sector will attend the First Planning Meeting on the International Year of Sanitation 2008 to map out an action plan on how to accelerate progress on sanitation.  An estimated 2.6 billion people world wide remain without proper sanitation and thereby lack protection against preventable diseases, which claim the lives of thousands daily, primarily children under the age of five.

The one-day meeting is held at UNICEF House in New York and is hosted by the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and UNICEF.

Sanitation is a problem that people are often shy to discuss, with excreta and its disposal being unpopular subjects from the local to the international levels.  The International Year of Sanitation was set by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 to help accelerate progress on sanitation by putting the spotlight on this silent crisis.

Over one billion people worldwide have gained access to improved sanitation in the past 14 years, with the global sanitation coverage having increased from 49 per cent to 59 per cent between 1990 and 2004.  Yet, the world continues to be off track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015.  If current trends continue, there will be 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation in 2015. 

Children especially continue to pay the price in lost lives, missed schooling, in disease, malnutrition and poverty.  Poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water claim the lives of an estimated over 1.5 million children under the age of five every year. 

It is estimated that improved sanitation facilities could reduce diarrhoea-related morbidity in young children by more than one-third. If hygiene promotion is added, such as teaching proper hand washing, it could be reduced by two thirds. It would also help accelerate economic and social development in countries where poor sanitation is a major cause for lost work and school days because of illness.  Girls in particular – especially when they hit puberty - miss out on schooling because of the lack of clean and safe latrines.

Millions of people – especially the poor in developing countries - are forced to defecate in bags, buckets, fields or roadside ditches, causing serious health risks to them and others.  Progress requires broad cooperation through public and private partnerships, community involvement and public awareness. 

For more information, please contact:

Malene Jensen, UNICEF Media NY, 1 212 303 – 7970, mjensen@unicef.org

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7 May 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Anwulika Okafor reports on the first preparatory meeting for the 2008 International Year of Sanitation.
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