#RuralSanitationMatters: a global call to action that can't wait

#RuralSanitationMatters: a global call to action that can't wait

What does it take for rural areas to meet the SDG 6 challenge? On 7 October 2019, at the UNC Water and Health Conference, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation joined five organisations in calling for a renewed global effort to raise the world's sanitation ambitions.

Together, Plan International, SNV, UNICEF, WaterAid, the World Bank and WSSCC developed a Global Call to Action [1] that calls upon governments, donors and development partners to strengthen rural sanitation programming approaches for SCALE, EQUITY, and SUSTAINABILITY.

In going forward, the partnership called upon the world to 'push the WASH commitment/ pledge envelope' and adopt five principles in the development and roll out of rural sanitation programmes.

  • Government leadership

  • Stakeholder alignment

  • Area-wide programming

  • Inclusive solutions

  • Evidence-based  and adaptive implementation

Why #RuralSanitationMatters?

The truth of the matter is... rural areas are being left behind.

In the more recent years, donor expenditure has been on the decline (US$ 225M in 2015, down to US$ 217M in 2017) (OECD CRS, 2019). Only 6% of countries have a rural sanitation plan that is backed by financial resources (WHO and UN-Water, 2019). Seventy-two per cent of all people who lack access to basic sanitation live in rural areas.


The state of rural sanitation appears grim... but, it is not impossible to address.

With political prioritisation and resourcing for sanitation and hygiene; showing (and celebrating!) lasting at-scale results; and moving away from blanket single approach blueprints (i.e., tailoring and adapting approaches as demanded by time and space) - the partnership believes that the successful achievement of SDG 6 in rural areas is possible.

During the UNC session and call to action, it was evident that several government-led programmes [2, 3] - in varying degrees - have already taken up the challenge of scale, equity and sustainability.

Opening slide introducing #RuralSanitationMatters CtA

Opening slide introducing #RuralSanitationMatters CtA

Anne Mutta sharing rural sanitation programming (SSH4A) of SNV

Anne Mutta sharing rural sanitation programming (SSH4A) of SNV

In moving forward, participants of the session made the following pledges:

  • To harness multi-sector and multi-level collaboration and learning.

  • To make the role of private sector in the Call to Action more explicit.

  • To push forward the development of suitable technologies, as needed by populations.

[1] Access the full text of the Call to Action here.
[2] A recent example is the Government of Nepal's completion of its ten-year open-defecation-free campaign. Officially pronounced and celebrated in Kathmandu last 30 September 2019, view interactive presentation to access stories, statements of reflection (and moving forward), and congratulatory remarks, in various formats.
[3] Since its inception, SNV's rural sanitation approach, Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) has been adopted in government-led rural sanitation programming in various countries. Read results of Emory University's effectiveness comparative study of sanitation and hygiene programmes, by Dr Joshua Garn in blog, titled Rural sanitation and hygiene: beyond the finish line (The SSH4A approach)****.

Photos: (Banner) There is No Planet B is a popular slogan used by climate justice advocates to stress the need for human beings to rethink lifestyles and normative practice that exacerbate the climate crisis. The same slogan may be used to emphasise the urgency for the globe to address sanitation and hygiene issues because poor sanitation impacts not only on a person... but entire communities, regions, and nations. (Pexels) | (Internal): Photos taken during the CtA at the UNC (SNV/ Patricia Solorzano)