In anticipation of the International Year of Sanitation in 2008 and with more than 2.6 billion people – 40% of the world's population – lacking access to toilets and other sanitation facilities, the head of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme has urged governments to adopt low-cost technology to ensure adequate sanitation for all.
While the world has made significant progress in improving people's access to safe water, access to improved sanitation "lags far behind," UN-Habitat's Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said in a message to the recent World Toilet Summit, which in New Delhi, India. She said this is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, southern Asia and eastern Asia where the proportion of the urban population having access until recently was only 55%, 67% and 69% respectively. "Being deprived of adequate sanitation facilities is the most direct and dehumanizing consequence of poverty," Ms. Tibaijuka stated. Lack of access to an adequate toilet not only violates the dignity of the urban poor, but also affects their health, she added, noting that the correlation between urban poverty and poor health is largely a result of inadequate sanitation facilities combined with inadequate or unsafe water supply. She added that sanitation is beginning to be recognized as a national development priority that needs to be supported by adequate policies and budgetary allocations. "The mobilization of investment capital is critical so that water and sewerage utilities are able to upgrade and extend infrastructure and services to meet un-served populations." Greater community involvement, particularly of women, in water and sanitation management combined with simple technology for easy maintenance can greatly facilitate cost recovery and help ensure equitable access, she added. In 2000, world leaders committed themselves to reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015 (Millennium Development Goal 7, target 10). At the 2002, they added another target – to halve by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation. In addition, the UN has declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation to raise awareness of the importance of sanitation and its impact on achieving other global development targets