SDG target: Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are usually grouped together in the development field. The pandemic has forced people to pay closer attention to hygiene—specifically to hand washing, which can help reduce the spread of COVID and other deadly diseases. Safe sanitation can do the same, but tracking sanitation progress is challenging. The SDGs rightly established a new, “safely managed” sanitation goal, but the world is behind schedule in tracking data according to this new framework. The data you see here measures access to sewered toilets. However, sewers are too expensive for many countries to build and maintain. Less-expensive pit latrines and septic tanks are also safe when their contents are emptied regularly and treated properly. Many people in low- and middle-income countries already use these solutions. The pandemic has likely reduced access to safely managed sanitation. We need to understand more about COVID-related trends to maintain recent hard-earned gains and meet rising community demand for safely managed sanitation, clean drinking water, and handwashing facilities.