Sanitation is one of the most pressing social and public health challenges today. 1 in 3 people worldwide do not have access to a safe toilet — and 892 million people have no choice but to defecate in the open. Every two minutes, a child dies from a preventable diarrhea-related disease — approximately 288,000 children each year. The issue also contributes to the number of girls who drop out of school, since they are especially affected by a lack of hygiene and sanitation during their period.
On top of these significant social costs, the burden of dealing with poor sanitation and related problems costs some countries as much as 5 percent of their GDP. In 2015, the global economy lost an estimated US$223 billion because of poor sanitation.
World-leading children’s organization UNICEF and LIXIL, a Japanese maker of water and housing products, aim to improve access to safe sanitation for 250 million people by 2021. The organizations have partnered to pioneer new approaches to the global sanitation challenge and strive towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, Target 2: to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
“Nearly 800 children die every day from diarrhea caused by unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Through this innovative partnership with LIXIL, we hope to help keep every child healthy and alive.”
The partnership, named “Make a Splash! Toilets for All,” builds on UNICEF and LIXIL’s previous collaboration in Africa to provide people in need of toilets with access to LIXIL produces designed to fit local conditions. While LIXIL makes a range of high-end toilets, its SATO — short for “safe toilets” — range includes affordable products that can operate independently of sanitation infrastructure, so they can be used in areas without plumbing. They require a half cup of water per use to rinse and have a self-sealing feature to eliminate odors and flies. SATO products have received funding from the Gates Foundation and are already serving around 6 million people across Asia and Africa.
As part of this new partnership, UNICEF and LIXIL plan to:
- Launch market-driven programmes to help establish a sanitation economy and ensure that sanitation products are available at affordable prices for the people who need them, starting in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.
- Engage in joint advocacy efforts that draw attention to the significant development opportunities presented by the sanitation economy.
- Fundraising and engagement activities by LIXIL to support the expansion of the partnership to new countries.
LIXIL anticipates that it will deploy hundreds of thousands of SATO units across the partnership’s first three target countries over the next few years, using its own financial resources to do so.
It is one of UNICEF’s most ambitious collaborations to date — the organization’s first global shared-value partnership in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, and the first of its kind with a Japanese company.
LIXIL notes these are only the first steps, and the partnership hopes its actions will help encourage more players to enter and expand the access to sanitation market.