OECD celebrates World Toilet Day



world toilet day image


Every day, millions of people around the world face a sanitation crisis. To raise awareness the United Nations this year has officially declared 19 November World Toilet Day.


"The simplest interventions can have the most profound, life-changing effect on poor communities across the world. Building a latrine can help safeguard local health and hygiene'', OECD War on Hunger Group.


The OECD places great importance on the issue of water and sanitation. It has undertaken significant work on the issue to help promote global awareness, encourage action and propose viable solutions.

World Toilet Day highlights the importance of improving sanitation in order to reduce pollution, minimise health impacts and achieve a sustainable environment. OECD work has focused on:


Other related activities:

 OECD Secretary-General makes the case for action
on wastewater management and water quality


Did you know that nitrogen effluents from untreated wastewater are projected to grow by 180%, from about 6 to 17 million tonnes per year between 2000 and 2050 globally?

The human cost of lack of sanitation 

Today almost 900 million people lack access to improved water supplies and 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. While there has been considerable progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on access to water, the MDG goal on sanitation will not be met. By 2030 more than 2 billion people will still lack basic sanitation facilities (mainly in developing countries outside the OECD and the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa) and this figure is only projected to drop to 1.4 billion by 2050.

These figures are daunting. Worldwide every year unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene claim the lives of an estimated 2.2 million children under the age of 5. Of these deaths, 1.5 million are due to diarrhoea. The mortality impact of diarrhoeal disease in children under 15 is greater than the combined impact of HIV and AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Moving forward: opportunities to improve sanitation 

Governments need to invest in water infrastructure and financing. The mechanisms and policies described below can have a significant impact:

  • Benefits of investment in water supply and sanitation infrastructure. Access to clean drinking water and sanitation provides economic, environmental and social benefits. Benefit-to-cost ratios are estimated to be as high as 7 to 1 in developing countries (WHO, 2011). Three-quarters of these benefits stem from time gains, i.e. less time spent having to walk long distances to collect water or to queue at the water source. To a large degree the other benefits are linked to a reduction of water-borne diseases such as reduced incidence of diarrhoea, malaria or dengue fever. Other non-health benefits must therefore be taken into consideration when adding up the full benefits stemming from improved access to water and sanitation. The benefits mean more time available for education and a more productive labour force.

  • Financing for water supply and sanitation. Despite some progress, securing sustainable finance for this wide range of services is an ongoing struggle for most countries, particularly in the current economic crisis. Closing the financial gap will require countries to mobilise financing from a variety of sources, which may include reducing costs (via efficiency gains or the choice of cheaper service options), increasing the basic sources of finance that can fill the financing gap, i.e. tariffs, taxes and transfers (commonly referred to as the “3Ts”) and mobilising repayable finance, including from the market or from the public sources, in order to bridge the financing gap.

  • External aid for water and sanitation developing countries. Financial aid is instrumental in encouraging progress towards the MDG targets on water supply and sanitation. Since 1990, drinking water and sanitation coverage in the developing world has increased by 16% and 20%, respectively.

    In 2010-11, total annual average aid commitments to water and sanitation amounted to USD 7.6 billion, representing 6% of total sector allocable aid. The largest bilateral providers in 2010-11 were Japan (on average USD 1.8 billion per year), Germany (USD 868 million) and the United States (USD 442 million). OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries’ bilateral annual aid commitments to the water and sanitation sector rose to USD 4.9 billion, of which the International Development Association (IDA) provided USD 1.3 billion and the EU Institutions USD 538 million. 

     However, while aid to water and sanitation has increased in recent years, funding remains insufficient considering the needs and much remains to be done, particularly in the area of sanitation

    Total DAC Members' Aid to Water and Sanitation in 2010-2011.

• Water flushing. Sustainable financing and placing the right tariffs are critical to moving forward. However, once sanitation services are available more environmental practices are needed to advance on the water agenda. OECD’s household survey on Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) examines periodically the main factors affecting the adoption of the water-saving devices (OECD, 2013). 

Results suggest and point to the following recommendations:

- facing a volumetric water charge has a strong positive effect on the adoption of low volume and dual flush toilets at home;

- impact of home-ownership is also relevant, since owner-occupiers are more often engaged in water-saving behaviours and make more financial investments in water efficiency;

- likelihood of investing in more water-efficient devices such as water flow restrictor taps/low shower head and water tank to collect rainwater, increases with the age of people, the size of residence and the household size;

- attitudinal characteristics, such as environmental concern and higher level of trust about claims regarding the environmental impacts of products, are associated with a higher likelihood of adopting of low-volume or dual-flush toilets.

Inside the OECD Headquarters 

Our goal at the OECD Headquarters is to endeavour to optimise sustainable water use in our buildings and facilities and in doing so also encouraging good practices to staff members and visitors. We use a comprehensive approach focusing on water quality monitoring, management practices, technology and awareness raising actions. 

Since 2010, total water use in OECD buildings' management has decreased by over 20%. These are some of the measures undertaken that have led to this positive outcome:

• Aerators, small metal balls installed in the bathroom and kitchen faucets, reduce water consumption by 20%; 
• Eco toilet flushing systems reduce toilets’ water usage by 50%;
• A controlled irrigation system reduces the amount of water usage in the OECD's conference centre Garden;‌
• 54 drinking water fountains are in place in all office buildings in order to minimize the use of bottled water.‌

We aim to further optimise the use of water in the coming years, to avoid unnecessary consumption and water leakages. In addition, at the beginning of 2014 we will start to use an automatic water monitoring system to ensure more detailed analysis of consumption and to reduce the risk of measurement errors.‌

Many OECD staff members also help improve access to drinking water and sanitation facilities in developing countries by contributing to the OECD War on Hunger Group.

Founded in 1964 by OECD staff members with the support of the Secretary-General, the OECD War on Hunger Group provides funds to improve living conditions in some of the world’s poorest regions. The Group currently has some 130 members, who regularly contribute about EUR 3500 per month. Priority is given to projects likely to have lasting effects, such as improving health conditions, or nutrition, education and production methods.

Thanks to the donations made by OECD staff members and retirees, the Group has funded hundreds of micro-level development projects, including several projects to improve drinking water supply and sanitation in countries such as Brazil, Burkina Faso, Haiti, India, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Togo and Vietnam. These projects have helped improve hygienic conditions and reduce water-borne diseases and related children mortality.

For more information:
- Contact the War on Hunger Group:   

- Download the brochure on the OECD War on Hunger Group. 

 OECD War on Hunger Group- Image for OECD World Toilet day webpage

      © Marc Giordan - Inter Aide       

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Related links and further reading

Related links

World Toilet Organisation (Official site) 

OECD work on Water:


Further Reading:

Greening Household Behaviour: Overview from the 2011 Survey (OECD, 2013);

OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: the Consequences of Inaction (OECD 2012);

OECD Benefits of Investing in Water and Sanitation: an OECD Perspective (OECD 2011)

Pricing Water Resources and Water and Sanitation Services (OECD 2010a);

Innovative Financing Mechanisms for the Water Sector (OECD 2010); 

Private Sector Participation in Water Infrastructure: OECD Checklist for Public Action (OECD 2009);

OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC):  





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