Please note that this implementation brief applies to the 2013 USAID Water and Development Strategy, which has been replaced by the 2017 U.S. Government Global Water Strategy and USAID Water and Development Plan. Click here for more information.
Improving sanitation can have a significant impact on health, the economy, personal security, and dignity, especially for women and girls. Investments in sanitation reduce health care costs and boost productivity, as time available for work and school increases.
Despite these compelling benefits, significant progress in improving sanitation has not occurred. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7c of halving the number of people to basic sanitation, globally. without access to improved sanitation was not met. The slow progress in sanitation is related to some daunting challenges. Sanitation is expensive, often overlooked, requires complex systems and infrastructure, and in many cultures is considered taboo. Sanitation suffers from a lack of political prioritization, particularly when compared with drinking water.
Women and girls are disproportionately burdened by the lack of access to sanitation. They face risks of sexual and physical violence when they have to travel long distances to sanitation facilities. Girls’ full engagement at school and work is at risk when proper facilities are lacking. Despite having primary responsibility for caring for children and the elderly, women rarely have a voice in sanitation decisions.
Sanitation is a top priority for the global water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) community and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Strategic Objective 1 of the USAID Water and Development Strategy seeks to improve health outcomes through the provision of sustainable WASH services. Improvement in sanitation is a key intermediate result (IR1.2) in the Strategy, and is critical to achieving overall objectives of saving lives and advancing development through improvements in health.