We all need to go to the toilet – usually a number of times each day. Despite this, sanitation is something that people are often embarrassed to talk about, making it easy to ignore. Around 2.6 billion people lack access to safe sanitation, which results in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Sanitation is something we should not ignore!
The first article of this issue and the case study on page 7 look at barriers to achieving the Millennium Development Goal linked to sanitation, so that we can advocate effectively.
Sanitation is a community-wide issue. If just one household in a community does not have access to safe sanitation, disease can spread and the whole community can suffer. Community-led total sanitation (page 12) is an approach that encourages local communities to consider the impact that lack of sanitation has on their health. As a result, communities take action to ensure that 100% of the households have access to sanitation and use it.
Many sanitation programmes are unsustainable because the technologies that are chosen are not appropriate. Pages 8–10 look at two methods of identifying technologies that are socially, technologically and financially appropriate. The second of these is a tool that can be used to identify the preferences of community members. Sustainable sanitation improvements also depend on accompanying improvements in access to water and hygiene education. There are two articles in this issue about hygiene education – among girls from the streets in Bolivia and people who have been displaced by the conflict in Darfur, Sudan.
This issue of Footsteps is timely as 2008 is the United Nations Year of Sanitation. Hopefully this issue will help us to consider what part we can play.