Sanitation and hygiene are important development issues. They merit a global meeting devoted to their consideration.
We all know the statistics: 2.6 billion people around the world are without access to a basic toilet. Diarrhoea – the vast majority of it due to poor sanitation and hygiene – is the second biggest killer of children worldwide.
Between us, we also have many of the answers. We have experiences of low-cost technologies that are acceptable and affordable for poor communities in rural areas. We have been involved in designing communications programmes that have contributed to sustained behaviour change. We have seen governments and civil society working together to set up policies and programmes that ensure access to better sanitation in challenging settings, such as crowded informal settlements in fast-growing megacities. We have also seen businesses grow up around sanitation and hygiene, allowing individuals to make a dignified living and clients to buy the sorts of products and services they want and need.
What we haven’t seen, however, is the rate of progress that is needed to achieve the Millennium Development target to halve, by 2015, the number of people living without access to basic sanitation. Nor have we seen the sort of progress that narrows the gap between rich and poor.
What is needed, today, is serious engagement around the sorts of programmes and policies that are going to help us reach beyond 2015 – to a world where all people have access to decent sanitation and hygiene. As a global community we need to agree what is needed, how to get there, and what skills we need to achieve results.
The WSSCC Global Forum on Hygiene and Sanitation will be the place for these discussions and decisions to take place. It is for practitioners. WSSCC members and partners will wrestle with the challenges facing our sector today. They will gain inspiration from each other, and from people from other walks of life, who have made important, large-scale change happen.
I believe that this Forum will be an important moment for those of us working in this sector. It will help us connect with each other and regroup around our shared mission. I urge you to make the most of this unique opportunity.
Join us, take part in the discussions, and be part of the solution to one of the greatest development challenges of our time.
Chair, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council