Improvement of sanitation facilities for meeting Millennium Development Goals: India makes only moderate progress

sanitation2The just-released report, “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation – 2015 update and MDG assessment”, published by UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO), has found that while India has made “moderate progress” in providing sanitation to its population, all of its bordering neighbours – China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh – have made “good progress.” An analysis of the data, which we reproduce in the form of graphs and illustrations based on the data provided by the UNICEF-WHO, suggest that India’s neighours met MGD sanitation targets. But, India failed to do it. Graphs have been culled out of the data provided by the report. Excerpts from the report:   

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target called for halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation between 1990 and 2015. During the MDG period, it is estimated that use of improved sanitation facilities rose from 54 per cent to 68 per cent globally. The global MDG target of 77 per cent has therefore been missed by nine percentage points and almost 700 million people. Despite encouraging progress on sanitation, much unfinished business remains from the MDG period. In addition to the shortfall against the global target, large disparities in access still exist. Almost all developed countries have achieved universal access, but sanitation coverage varies widely in developing countries.

sanitation1Since 1990 the number of countries with less than 50 per cent of the population using an improved sanitation facility has declined slightly, from 54 to 47, and countries with the lowest coverage are now concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Nearly one third of the current global population has gained access to an improved sanitation facility since 1990, a total of 2.1 billion people.

However, the proportion gaining access varies across developing regions. Western Asia and Northern Africa have provided access to 50 per cent and 41 per cent of the current population since 1990. By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa has provided access to less than 20 per cent of the current population. Despite failing to meet the target of halving the proportion of the population without access, Southern Asia nevertheless managed to provide access to 32 per cent of the current population.

In 2015 it is estimated that 2.4 billion people globally still use unimproved sanitation facilities. The vast majority live in just three regions, with 40 percent in Southern Asia. There are now twice as many people using unimproved sanitation facilities in sub-Saharan Africa than in Eastern Asia. The nearly 700 million people who would have been served if the MDG target for sanitation had been met is equal to the number of unserved people in sub-Saharan Africa.

sanitation3Use of improved sanitation facilities increased in all regions, except for Oceania, but rates of progress varied widely. The Caucasus and Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia were the only developing regions to meet the MDG target. Eastern Asia dramatically increased coverage – by 28 percentage points – to meet the target. South-eastern Asia also achieved a significant increase, of 24 per percentage points, but narrowly missed the target. While Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa had similarly low levels of coverage in 1990 (22 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively), the former increased coverage by 25 percentage points, while the latter only achieved a 6 per cent increase.

In Southern Asia, which had the lowest baseline coverage in 1990, 576 million people gained access to improved sanitation facilities during the MDG period – an average of 63,000 people per day for 25 years. Over the same period, improved sanitation coverage in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania has stagnated. However, the vast majority (64 per cent) of those without access to improved sanitation in Southern Asia still practice open defecation, compared with 33 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and just 18 per cent in Oceania.

sanitation4Between 1990 and 2015, open defecation declined in all regions, with the most dramatic reductions seen in the least developed countries (from 45 per cent in 1990 to 20 per cent in 2015), representing an important first step on the sanitation ladder. Globally, it is estimated that 82 per cent of the urban population now uses improved sanitation facilities, compared with 51 per cent of the rural population. Inequalities in access to improved sanitation between rural and urban areas have decreased during the MDG period. The number of people without access to improved sanitation in rural areas has decreased by 15 per cent, and open defecation rates have decreased from 38 per cent to 25 per cent. During the same period, the urban population grew dramatically, by 73 per cent, whereas the rural population grew by just 11 per cent. Seven out of ten of the 2.1 billion people gaining access to improved sanitation since 1990 live in urban areas, but the proportion without access has declined by just 3 per cent.

Despite progress made during the MDG period, sanitation coverage in rural areas continues to lag behind urban areas. Globally, seven out of ten people without improved sanitation, and nine out of ten people practicing open defecation, live in rural areas. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) sanitation ladder differentiates between improved facilities and those of an otherwise improved type that are shared by more than one household.

sanitation5Limited data are available on sharing in many countries, but it is estimated that 638 million people worldwide are sharing sanitation facilities of an otherwise improved type in 2015. Use of shared sanitation is more common in some regions than others, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. More households use shared sanitation facilities in these two regions than in all other regions combined. Use of shared sanitation is widespread in both urban and rural areas. The total number of people sharing is greater in urban (398 million) than in rural settings (240 million).

However, among those who use sanitation facilities of an otherwise improved type, the proportion that share these facilities with others is similar in urban (11 per cent) and rural (12 per cent) areas. In some countries the proportion of people sharing is higher in urban areas (as in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda), while in others the proportion is higher in rural areas (notably in West Africa). The nature of sharing can differ considerably, from sharing a facility with a small number of close neighbours to using facilities shared by many households.

sanitation6In order to differentiate, some have recommended setting a threshold, such as five or more households, known as ‘limited sharing’, and to include the population served by limited sharing in the ‘improved’ category. Others argue that even limited sharing has negative impacts on health and should not be considered ‘improved’. Most countries still have very limited data on sharing of sanitation facilities (only 9 per cent have more than four surveys), even though the number of household surveys and censuses that collect information on sharing has increased substantially during the MDG period, from 239 in 2008 to over 400 in 2015.

For even fewer countries – only 85 in 2015 – is it possible to distinguish limited sharing from any sharing. During the MDG period, the elimination of open defecation has been increasingly recognized as a top priority for improving health, nutrition and productivity of developing country populations. In 1990, more than half the population in 16 countries practised open defecation, and more than ten percent in 62 countries.

sanitationOpen defecation has since declined by at least ten percentage points in 44 of these countries, and by more than 20 percentage points in 23. Sixteen countries have reduced open defecation by more than 25 percentage points during the MDG period. Ethiopia achieved the largest decrease in the proportion of the population practicing open defecation (from 92 per cent in 1990 to 29 per cent in 2015), a reduction over five times greater than the regional average for the same period. Open defecation was practiced by 44.3 million Ethiopians in 1990 and 28.3 million in 2015 – an average reduction of over 4 percentage points per year over 25 years.

The Southern Asia region, where the number of open defecators is highest, has also made significant improvements. Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan have all achieved reductions of more than 30 percentage points since 1990. The 31 per cent reduction in open defecation in India alone represents 394 million people, and significantly influences regional and global estimates.

Open defecation rates have been decreasing steadily since 1990, and it is estimated that fewer than one billion people (946 million) now practice open defecation worldwide. Two thirds live in Southern Asia, nearly three times as many as in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the number of people practicing open defecation in Southern Asia has declined only moderately, from 771 million in 1990 to 610 million in 2015, a reduction of just 21 per cent. During the same period the number of people practicing open defecation has actually increased in sub-Saharan Africa, and the region now accounts for a greater share of the global total than in 1990. All other regions recorded a reduction in open defecation in population terms between 1990 and 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s