World Toilet Summit

Billions of people are being stripped of basic human dignity through lack of proper sanitation will be the spotlight when the World Toilet Summit opens.

South African Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale will officially open the summit which runs until 6 December 2012 and is a first for Africa.

The summit which has as its theme “African Sanitation: Scaling Up - Dignity for all” will see experts share learning, knowledge and experiences in order to accelerate progress on the still-lagging UN-led Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on sanitation.

At least 2.5 billion people in the world still do not have access to adequate sanitation, almost two fifths of the world's population.

Without proper toilet facilities, one child dies every 15 seconds from diseases such as diarrhoea caused by oral faecal contamination, according to the World Health Organisation.

In addition to the suffering brought to those who face the prospect of disease and ill health, the cost of inadequate sanitation is an economic one. Poverty eradication and societal change are virtually impossible without adequate sanitation and disease prevention.

The situation has become worse over time. Despite much publicity over Africa’s “water security”, most resources have poured into providing clean drinking water, rather than sanitation.

Between when the MDGs were announced (2000) and now, not much has changed in terms of access to sanitation, and the continent is unlikely to reach the goals by 2015.

Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO) which is hosting the summit through the SA Toilet Organisation (SATO), said despite many initiatives by government ministries and non-governmental organisations to tackle the issue of African sanitation, it has not been extensive enough.

“The summit will be an all-encompassing interactive platform dedicated to sanitation and will facilitate and showcase the latest knowledge and practice, communications and advocacy, partnerships and networking approaches to strengthen global dialogue.

“Sanitation and hygiene professionals, including educators, communicators, health professionals, academics, legal professionals, technical specialists, scientists, and social entrepreneurs will share and learn about approaches, tools and lessons that resonated in their own reality.

“New approaches are necessary in order to solve the problem and offer Africa’s poor a semblance of dignity and respect.”

Poor sanitation costs developing countries between three and seven percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year. Frequent use of toilets and improved sanitation has the potential to reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity, increase earnings from tourism and promote greater educational attainment, particularly among young girls.

“Above all, sanitation is about human dignity – a daily human need and basic human right that when denied brings shame, disgust and stigma,” said Sim.

Alfie Heeger, chairman of SATO, said that according to a report entitled “The Quality of Sanitation in South Africa”, which was discussed in Parliament in September 2012, the government needs to invest R44.5bn to solve South Africa’s sanitation crisis.

Of South Africa's households, 1.4 million or about 11% have no sanitation facilities or services.

The report found that:

  • Apart from the 11% of households with no services, a further 26% where infrastructure does exist are on the brink of collapse.
  • Of South Africa's 826 bulk waste treatment facilities, 317 may collapse without immediate intervention.
  • Municipalities are partly to blame because they are not spending their capital budget allocations. The report says in 2011/12 municipalities spent only 30% of their capital budget allocations, the majority of which was not spent on sanitation.
  • Municipalities have severe skill constraints in the field of sanitation, with very little maintenance and planning being done in this regard.

Worst-off provinces are KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northwest.

Heeger said: "We have to look at alternatives. We need to promote the saving of resources.

“We must look at the installation of waterless, chemical-free toilets where the by-products could be used as fertiliser in agriculture.”

Nomhle Dambuza, ANC MP and chairperson of the human settlements committee, said the committee was already hard at work across the country to look at ways of solving the sanitation problem.

"The biggest thing we need is a centrally located unit that specialises in sanitation, located in the department of human settlements, to look into the issue as a priority."

The World Toilet Summit which is sponsored by global FMCG company Unilever, through its toilet cleaner Domestos brand which has a global alliance with the WTO, will bring together a host of international speakers including Dr Kamal Kar, Ms Barbara Penner, Thorsten Kiefer and Piers Cross.

Dr Kar pioneered the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach in Bangladesh in 1999-2000 and through training and advocacy spread the CLTS in more than 45 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Today CLTS is being implemented in 51 countries in the world and 17 countries have adopted CLTS in their respective national sanitation policies.

Ms Penner is a Senior Lecturer in Architectural History at University College London. She is under contract to Reaktion which is tracing the spread of the Anglo-American model of water-borne sanitation. This has lead to a global preference for Western-style bathrooms, even in situations where is it is not economically or ecologically viable or even culturally appropriate.

Mr Keifer is the founder and Executive Director of WASH United and has been at COHRE’s Right to Water Programme for almost ten years. He has also worked at the German Institute for Human Rights focussing particularly on advocacy at international level.

Mr Cross is a leading international spokesman and strategist on water supply and sanitation. He worked for the World Bank for more than 20 years rising to the position of Global Program Manager. He now advises several United Nations agencies on water and sanitation issues and is a senior advisor in the Sanitation and Water for All Secretariat.

During a plenary session on the theme, “African Sanitation and the challenges that we face”, Neil Macleod who has been Head of Water and Sanitation at the eThekwini Municipality since 1992, will be the keynote speaker. He has more than 40 years of experience in the water and sanitation sector and has served on the boards of the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Unit, Johannesburg Water and Umgeni Water. He also serves on the steering committee of the SA Water Research Commission.

Participating in the summit under the track Human Rights is SECTION27, a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights

Nikki Stein, an attorney at SECTION27, is known for her work to address the broader education crisis in Limpopo including a lack of proper school infrastructure, adequate sanitation facilities, school transport, teacher post provisioning and school furniture. She is also working closely with the Gauteng Department of Education to improve the efficiency of the processes in place to address cases of sexual violence in schools.

Thabang Pooe, a research assistant at SECTION27, has worked on cases related to the right to basic education which includes work on sanitation in schools, the provision of learner teacher support material in schools, school infrastructure and sexual violence in schools. She is involved in community development through her work with KGB Youth Development Forum on a continuous basis.

In demonstrating its undivided support and commitment to addressing the inadequate state of sanitation in South Africa, Domestos, a leading hygiene brand in the Unilever portfolio has contributed a generous sponsorship towards the costs of the summit.

For more information on the 12th World Toilet Summit Press Conference please contact

Unilever South Africa - Unathi Mgobozi External Affairs Manager

+27 31 570 3000
031 570 2470

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