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Vision & Strategy

As 2.6 billion people around the world still lack basic sanitation and 900 million lack access to clean drinking water, the MDG 7 target to halve the number by 2015 is unlikely to be met. Worldwide, lack of safe sanitation and water cause 1.4 million preventable deaths every year, mostly among children under 5. Even in the European Union, more than 20 million citizens still lack safe sanitation: in Bulgaria, 2.1 million people in rural areas and in Romania, almost half the population, 10.4 million people out of 21.7 million, lack safe sanitation. In addition, 120 million people in the WHO European Region lack access to safe drinking water, and 14,000 children in the region die every year as the result of waterborne diseases.

WECF’s programme on water quality monitoring in rural areas of EECCA countries has confirmed the presence of human faecal bacteria and nitrates in the drinking water wells of many rural communities. This is due to widespread mismanagement of human and animal waste, since water protection strategies, tools and legislation are lacking. These pollutants contribute significantly to recurring gastro intestinal diseases and child morbidity.

A key factor is that in rural areas without sewers, unsustainable sanitation systems such as pit latrines and perforated septic tanks are used and these often pollute drinking water and threaten health.

WECF has demonstrated two sustainable sanitation systems, the Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs), and the Constructed Wetland or Soil Filters, both of which protect drinking water sources and at the same time allow safe reuse of nutrients, either as effective fertiliser or as biomass. Sustainable sanitation systems are better adapted to impacts of climate change (droughts, floods), use less electricity for operation, and act substitutes as carbon-intensive synthetic fertilizers. Soil filters can absorb CO2 and produce valuable organic materials for insulation and construction. Decentralized sustainable sanitation therefore is well suited for National Mitigation and Adaptation Plans. Barriers at the policy level are a lack of awareness of the opportunities presented by decentralised, sustainable sanitation systems, hence a lack of legislation on water source protection and the reuse of human excreta.