UN calls for greater focus on sanitation and an end to open defecation

The UN has called on countries to give greater urgency tosanitation, particularly efforts to end open defecation.

"We must break taboos. As was the case for the word 'toilets' a few years ago, it is time to incorporate 'open defecation' in the political language and in the diplomatic discourse," the deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, said in a keynote speech at a annual World Water Week event in Stockholm, Sweden.

He has urged states to step up their efforts on sanitation, which is the subject of the seventhmillennium development goals(MDGs). Meeting the target would involve reducing the proportion of people without access to sanitation from 51% to 25% by 2015. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the objective isoff trackbut, even if it were met, about 1.7 billion people will be without access to sanitation.

In 2008, aid commitments on water and sanitation comprised $7.4bn (£4.7bn), or 5%, of reported development aid, lower than other commitments for social sectors, including health and education, and lower than those for government and civil society, transport and storage, and energy and agriculture. Compared with health and education, the share of development aid for sanitation and drinking water has markedly decreased over the past decade.

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