Worldwide sanitation in spotlight on World Toilet Day

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The Australian Greens say World Toilet Day is an opportunity to highlight the importance of world-wide sanitation.

"It is shocking that 2.5 billion people worldwide are without access to proper sanitation. This risks their health, strips their dignity, and kills 1.8 million people, most of which are children, every year," said Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.

"Today is World Toilet Day, which some think is funny, but the number of deaths and suffering as a result of poor sanitation is a sobering reminder that more is needed to reduce suffering around the world."

"Lack of proper sanitation is the world's biggest cause of malnutrition and infection, causing diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and worm infections that kill 5,000 children each day."

"Clean toilets contribute to poverty eradication by protection one's health and ability to work. Safe collection and treatment of human waste and other various wastewaters protects drinking water sources and eco-systems, creating clean and healthy living environments, particularly in urban areas," said Senator Siewert.

"Australia's contribution to sanitation projects in the developing world should be increased. By next year it is expected to increase to $250m, however, this is still below our fair share - Australia's calculated fair share to sanitation in the Millennium Development Goals is estimated to be $350m."

"The current sanitation problem in Timor-Leste illustrates this point. Diarrhoea is a leading cause of under-five child deaths in Timor-Leste, accounting for 22% of the total 5,000 children that die every year. Access to sanitation in Timor-Leste is estimated at 41% and the country is perilously short of meeting the MDG target for sanitation. The sanitation improvements that will dramatically improve child mortality and general community health in Timor-Leste are relatively cheap and easily implemented."

The Senate yesterday passed a Greens motion recognising the importance of World Toilet Day, and calling on the government to invest in foreign aid projects aimed at improving sanitation levels.

"The Senate has backed my calls for the Australian Government to play a constructive, proactive role at the upcoming Global Framework for Action on Water and Sanitation meeting in Washington April 2010. This is the opportunity for global support of sanitation policy leadership," concluded Senator Siewert.

Editors: Timor-Leste details from the report Fatal Neglect by International WaterAid

The World Toilet Day motion in the Senate can be read here

For more information or media inquiries, please call Tim Norton on 0418 401 180