The World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund in their 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme report estimated that more than 2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation. The WHO estimates that every year approximately 1.4 million children die from diarrhoeal disease, the vast majority of which is due to inadequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Yet in many countries sanitation does not receive the political priority it merits. Access to sanitation is one of the most off-track Millennium Development Goal targets. Unless the pace of change in the sanitation sector can be accelerated, the Millennium Development Goal target will not be reached until 2026.
The UK government has always placed a high priority on improving access to sanitation and, following a review of international law in this area, has now also recognised sanitation as a human right under international law. On 20 April at the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting the Secretary of State for International Development committed to doubling the UK’s ambitions on water, sanitation and hygiene to reach at least 60 million people by 2015. We will support partner governments to fulfil their obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and we will strengthen the ability of people living in poverty in developing countries to claim their right to sanitation through programmes that enhance voice, transparency and accountability.
The Government has issued a statement setting out details of the right to sanitation as recognised by the UK.