10 facts on sanitation

March 2011

A health worker surveying a latrine in a rural area.
WHO/PAHO/Carlos Gaggero

Lack of sanitation is a serious health risk and an affront to human dignity. It affects billions of people around the world, particularly the poor and disadvantaged. If the trend continues as currently projected, by 2015 there will be 2.7 billion people without access to basic sanitation.

In the wake of disasters as much as in every day life, public health interventions that secure adequate sanitation in communities prevent the spread of disease and save lives. They raise the quality of life for many, particularly women and girls who are often in charge of domestic tasks, and can face personal risks when they have to relieve themselves in the open.

Sanitation is a human right and a key component of primary prevention to ensure better health. Since its inception, WHO has recognized sanitation as vital to global health. Today, the Organization continues to help Member States improve sanitation status, respond to sanitation needs during emergencies and increase policies and actions that expand access to this basic service.

Read more about sanitation and health

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