MPs’ call for global action plan on toilets

By staff writers
November 19, 2007

Governments will today (Nov 19) be accused of denying millions of people in the developing world a simple medical breakthrough – sanitation - that transformed British society 150 years ago.

A new report from Christian development agency Tearfund calls for a Global Action Plan to end what it describes as the ‘last taboo’ of poverty, which sees one child dying every 15 seconds from diarrhoea and one in three people on the planet (2.6 billion) without adequate sanitation.

The report, Sanitation Scandal, is being launched at the House of Commons on Monday at the inaugural meeting of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Sanitation & Water.

Monday has been designated World Toilet Day in a bid to highlight across the world the global crisis of poor sanitation. Already, 220 MPs have given their backing to the End Water Poverty campaign, which seeks to address the sanitation crisis.

Bill Cash MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, says: “Half the hospital beds in the world are taken up with people suffering water-related diseases. But we almost never hear such shocking facts because the global sanitation crisis goes virtually un-remarked by world governments. Governments across the world must pay more attention to this crisis, particularly as ill-health due to poor sanitation is going to de-rail progress on global targets for child mortality and education.”

The report highlights the scale of the crisis. A baby born in sub-Saharan Africa is 500 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal disease than one born in the developed world. 443 million school days are lost each year because of disease caused by diarrhoea. Plans to halve by 2015 the number of people in the world without access to sanitation are off target in 74 countries – and will not be achieved in sub-Saharan Africa for 60 years.

Laura Webster, policy Advisor at Tearfund said: “Diseases like cholera killed tens of thousands of British people in the mid-19th Century. We discovered the link between poor sanitation and illness, putting an end to wholesale suffering and death. It is quite simply a scandal that we allow millions of people in the developing world to die for the same reasons.”

“Now that HIV & Aids and sexual health are finally high on the global agenda, sanitation is the last taboo. Politicians in all countries must accept that they must address and allocate funding for sanitation promotion in order to prevent millions of preventable deaths across the developing world. A Global Action Plan on Water & Sanitation is long overdue and in 2008 – the UN’s International Year of Sanitation – we are calling on the G8 to sign up to such a plan.”

Among those addressing the launch at the House of Commons today (Monday) will be scientist, historian and broadcaster Adam Hart Davis.

Find out how you can help and give a toilet through World Vision, Oxfam or Christian Aid here

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