Pathak is the founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India
Inadequate sanitation and its devastating effects on the world’s poor comprise humanity’s most urgent yet solvable crisis, according to international leaders and experts convening at the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm.
“The correlation between sanitation and disease is dramatic and unmistakable,” said Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). “Yet, at the current rate of progress, we are going to miss the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation by more than 700 million people, leaving still 2.4 billion people without adequate sanitation by 2015, about the same number as today. By any standard, this is unacceptable. We need the political will to translate our intentions into meaningful action.”
In seminars, workshops and side events during the week, participants have explored the causes, health impacts and possible solutions to inadequate sanitation that currently affects more than 2.6 billion people across the planet, kills over 5000 children daily and causes the illnesses that fill half of the hospital beds in the developing world. The topics include manual scavenging, sanitation for the urban poor, financing of sanitation and the effects that climate change could have on sanitation, among many other subjects.
“The sanitation problem has a complex solution,” said Jon Lane, executive director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). “If it was easy it would have been done by now. It needs a systemic intervention. This involves politicians, educationalists, marketers, entrepreneurs, technologists, financiers and philanthropists. Each has a particular role to play.”
The Award Ceremony and Royal Banquet for the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, highlighted the urgency and international importance of the sanitation challenge. The founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide-ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress and improve human rights in his home nation and other countries. His accomplishments span the fields of sanitation technology, social enterprise and healthcare education for millions of people, serving as a model for NGO agencies and public health initiatives around the world.
“If water is honoured by the Prize being named after it, the importance of sanitation, its sibling, cannot be left far behind,” Dr. Pathak said in his acceptance speech. “The two complement rather than compete with each other. Provision of sanitation provides dignity and safety, especially to women, and reduction of child mortality. As a matter of fact, safe water and sanitation go hand in hand for improvement of community health.”
Dr. Pathak received the award from H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.