Unicef: Sanitation for All

As part of our commitment to Sustainable Living, the Unilever Foundation has partnered with UNICEF to help hundreds of thousands of people in need gain improved access to basic sanitation by supporting UNICEF’s Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (‘CATS’) programme.

The sanitation crisis

A boy entering a pit latrine in Karo Khas Village in Sindh Province of Pakistan. ©UNICEF/NYHQ2011-2356/Asad ZaidHaving access to sanitation is a basic human right. Yet, today an estimated 2.5 billion people still do not have access to improved sanitation, and 1.1 billion of these people practice open defecation.1 Without access to toilets, people are forced to defecate in the open putting them at constant risk of preventable disease such as diarrhea and cholera, as well as dysentery, pneumonia, intestinal worms and malnutrition.2 Diarrheal disease alone is the second leading cause of death in children under five years of age globally.3

Despite the fact that the proportion of people practicing open defecation has been decreasing, it is unlikely that the world will meet the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target by 2015.

Changing behavior. Improving lives

In response to the sanitation crisis, the Unilever Foundation and UNICEF have partnered to improve people’s access to basic sanitation, and in turn, help to improve their overall health and well-being. Additionally, Domestos, Unilever’s leading toilet hygiene brand, has contributed to this effort by using its global reach to educate consumers about the sanitation crisis through a cause-related marketing campaign.

The Unilever Foundation and Domestos are supporting UNICEF’s CATS programme which aims to promote demand for sanitation at the community level. With this support, UNICEF will expand its reach of CATS through three core elements:

  • Triggering: Creates a demand for toilets through mobilising the community to a point of self-realisation about the state of open defecation.
  • Behaviour Change: Stopping open defecation out of a sense of responsibility and concern for both oneself and the community.
  • Promoting Sanitation: Promoting mainstream behaviour through mass media and messaging in schools and health centres.

Support from the Unilever Foundation and Domestos will contribute towards CATS’ goal of achieving 100% open defecation free communities – those where families are using their own toilets and handwashing facilities. In the first year of the partnership, our support of CATS is expected to result in an estimated 600,000 people living in open defecation-free communities across nine countries: Gambia, Ghana, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Vietnam.

“UNICEF is really excited because together we’re facilitating access to improved sanitation for some of the most disadvantaged communities around the world. Fundamentally, an investment in sanitation is an investment in human dignity. This is a promising partnership, with enormous potential to achieve results because we bring our complementary skills, knowledge and expertise to the issues.” – Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF.

Progress report

In less than a year, UNICEF has made great strides in helping to improve the health and well-being of people exposed to CATS with support from the Unilever Foundation and Domestos. Some of the activities and related progress achieved to-date include:

  • Partnering with national Governments, support has been provided to build institutional and community level capacity for sanitation programmes. For example, in Vietnam, 600 community and local Government workers have been trained on how to implement community and school led sanitation programmes. In Sudan, over 200 village committee members have been trained on operation and maintenance of sanitation and water facilities.
  • Across the nine countries, over a thousand villages have undergone ‘triggering’, a technique designed to help people understand the link between open defecation and disease and to stimulate communities to take action. As a result, 78 communities in Ghana have now been declared open defecation free, while in Gambia, 100 villages have achieved open defecation free status. South Sudan held its first ever open defecation free village celebration in 2012, and is making good progress expanding the programme.
  • School children are being reached with sanitation, safe water and hygiene facilities in Ghana, Nicaragua and Sudan.
  • Efforts to build local capacity to provide sanitation products and services are underway in Gambia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, and Vietnam. For example, 150 local masons have been trained on latrine slab construction in Gambia. In Pakistan, model sanitation marts have been established, with almost 8,000 demonstration latrines constructed.
  • Innovative approaches are being applied in a number of countries – for example, in Nigeria, CATS is linked to a nutrition programme, using the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition Centres as an entry point with communities. And in both Pakistan and the Philippines, the programmes are working in flood-prone areas to reach those in greatest need.

In addition to supporting CATS, the Unilever Foundation is supporting other Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (‘WASH’) initiatives in South Africa, Turkey and Myanmar. Partnering with local governments, UNICEF will educate individuals about proper hygiene and sanitation, as well as ensure availability and proper use of WASH facilities.

Together with UNICEF, we are creating a more sustainable future for generations to come.

1WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme: Progress on Drinking Water & Sanitation. 2012 update.

2Sanitation Drive to 2015: Planner’s Guide – Fact Sheet 4, 2012.

3UNICEF/WHO: Diarrhoea: Why Children are Still Dying and What Can be Done.