Inter Press ServiceWill Higginbotham – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 23 Feb 2018 07:19:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Understanding Child Soldier Recruitment Needed to Help Curb Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/understanding-child-soldier-recruitment-needed-help-curb-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=understanding-child-soldier-recruitment-needed-help-curb-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/understanding-child-soldier-recruitment-needed-help-curb-crisis/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 07:16:17 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154465 It is not known exactly how many child soldiers there are in the world, but current estimates tell us that in 2018, the number is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Children have been used in hostilities – including as human bombs –by state and non-state groups in at least 18 conflicts since […]

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Former child solider Mulume (front left) feels hopeless about his future. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 2018 (IPS)

It is not known exactly how many child soldiers there are in the world, but current estimates tell us that in 2018, the number is likely to be in the tens of thousands.

Children have been used in hostilities – including as human bombs –by state and non-state groups in at least 18 conflicts since 2016 alone.

Today, a staggering 46 nations continue to attract and enlist people under 18 into their militaries.

These are some of the statistics from the Child Soldiers World Index – a newly released database that examines UN member states for their use of child soldiers in the armed forces and non-state groups.

The statistics are indeed concerning, with even the UN declaring that the number of at risk children is increasing at an “alarming rate”.

So what exactly is driving children to become involved with armed groups? And, what can be done to get a grip on the crisis?

These are the questions that the United Nations University (UNU), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Luxemburg and Switzerland have been working to answer by conducting field research on child recruitment practices in Mali, Iraq and Nigeria.

THE ROLE OF “RADICALISATION”

According to the report, entitled ‘Cradled by Conflict: Children in Contemporary Conflict’, a mistake that policy makers are making is focusing too much on the idea that child soldiers join armed groups because they have been ‘radicalised’.

“Currently there is a tendency to attribute child involvement in conflicts to them becoming radicalised and swept up in this violent ideology… but this is rarely the primary factor motivating child association in armed groups,” the project’s leader researcher Siobhan O’Neil told IPS.

For example, the report found that ideology was hardly a factor in Mali where child solider recruitment is often paired with a narrative of radicalisation.

“In Mali, the intercommunal conflicts over resources and cattle, issues made worse by climate change and state corruption– were far more likely to drive children to armed groups,” O’Neil said.

Even in cases where ideology does play a role in a child’s trajectory towards an armed group, it is usually only one of a number of motivating or facilitating factors.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has conflated its religious ideology with a rejection of the Nigerian state, the latter of which, the report found “may be the greater driver of association with Boko Haram for Nigerians who have experienced state oppression and violence.”

“NO CHOICE BUT TO JOIN”

UNU’s research also challenges a re-occurring perception that children can simply avoid joining armed groups.

The report stressed that for many children, especially those living within an occupied territory, neutrality is not an option.

“That’s a fallacy. It’s virtually impossible for children to remain unaffiliated in a war zone,” Kato Van Broeckhoven, a co-author of the research, told IPS.

“When an armed group is the only employer – like they are in parts of Syria and Nigeria – and they have physical control of a region, joining may be the only realistic way to survive,” she continued.

“PRO-SOCIAL REASONS TO JOIN”

The report also found that for some children, armed groups are attractive because they offer a sense of ‘community’, a sense of ‘significance’, and a feeling of ‘order amid chaos’.

For example in both Mali and Nigeria, where strict hierarchical societies are the norm, armed groups can provide a way for young people to express themselves and attain a level of status beyond what society would usually allow someone of their age.

Addressing what this research means for policy makers and programs on the ground, O’Neil told IPS that “ultimately, what we see is that there is no mono-causal reason for children getting involved in armed groups.”

“It’s important any intervention programs geared towards preventing them becoming involved, assisting them with release and reintegration recognise that and take a holistic approach to addressing children’s needs and risks,” she continued.

The report argues that many current interventions aimed at assisting child soldiers have leaned towards an ‘ideological approach’ – one that aims to ‘prevent’ and ‘counter’ violent extremism.

In the absence of evidence that links radical ideology to children becoming involved in armed groups, O’Neil and her fellow researchers say that any ‘ideological approach’ to intervention should only be used when there is clear evidence that it would be preventative.

Otherwise, as the report noted, “it’s a one size, fits none’ approach.

In the report, researchers urged for more effective international efforts to prevent and respond to child recruitment and use by armed groups including:

(1) avoid programmes focused primarily on ideological factors; (2) only incorporate ideological components where individually necessary and where they can be embedded into larger, holistic efforts to address the needs and risks of children; (3) ensure all interventions are empirically based; (4) rigorously assess interventions over the long term; and (5) engage children not just as beneficiaries, but as partners.

The ‘Cradled bo Conflict’ report and the Child Soldiers World Index data was launched on the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, and the anniversary of the OPAC treaty – the world’s first international treaty wholly focused on ending the military exploitation of children.

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“No Time to Waste” in Ending FGMhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/no-time-waste-ending-fgm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-time-waste-ending-fgm http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/no-time-waste-ending-fgm/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 16:17:11 +0000 Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154216 More than 200 million women around the world have experienced some kind of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more could be at risk, a UN agency said. Though the practice has declined in prevalence globally, alarming new figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict that any progress could be off-set as a further […]

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FGM is a taboo and complicated topic in Liberia and it is dangerous for women to speak out about it. Credit: Travis Lupick / IPS

By Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 million women around the world have experienced some kind of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more could be at risk, a UN agency said.

Though the practice has declined in prevalence globally, alarming new figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict that any progress could be off-set as a further 68 million girls face the risk of FGM by 2030.

The statistics from the UN were unveiled today as the world marks the 15th International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“The new figures mean that this practice is threatening the life and wellbeing of more girls and women than initially estimated,” the Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM, Nafissatou Diop, told IPS.

“You and I and everybody and the girl next door can be affected,” she continued.

FGM – sometimes called female circumcision or being ‘cut’ — is often practiced for religious, personal, cultural, and coming of age purposes. According to the UN, most cases are inflicted upon girls from infancy to the age of 15.

The increase in ‘at risk of FGM’ cases is partly due to population growth in countries where FGM is common – namely in parts of northern and western Africa, the Middle East and pockets of Asia.

In Egypt alone, more than 90 parent of women have undergone the practice.

Both UNICEF and UNFPA denounce FGM, calling it a “violation of human rights’ and a “cruel practice” that inflicts emotional harm and preys on the most vulnerable in society.

“It is unconscionable that 68 million girls should be added to the 200 million women and girls in the world today who have already endured female genital mutilation,” they said.

Life-Changing Harm

FGM can cause lifelong trauma, including urinary and vaginal problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, and psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and low self-esteem.

Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women’s Right Division at Human Rights Watch, told IPS that the predicted 68 million FGM cases was “unacceptable”.

“It’s a fundamental human rights violation that can ruin girls’ lives,” she said. “So often these girls don’t have a say – at infancy and childhood, how can you?

“There is no health benefit to women being cut, so you tend to see it in those societies that don’t have high levels of gender equality…This practice is rooted in gender inequality,” she added.

FGM = Gender Inequality

Gerntholtz highlighted that in order to tackle the practice, the international community needs to look at not just the specific act of FGM, but at the broader issue of entrenched gender inequality.

“As an international community, we can fight FGM not only by supporting FGM-specific initiatives, but also by looking holistically at the gender inequality in these regions, so investing in programs that support girl’s rights, girls’ education, community education on these things – that’s also key.”

UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem echoed similar sentiments, saying that the world already knows what it needs to do to overcome FGM.

“We know what works, targeted investments that changing social norms, practices and lives,” Kanem said

“Where social norms are confronted villages by village…when there is access to health, education and legal services…where girls and women are protected and empowered to make their voices heard.”

Change has particularly come from the community level.

Fourteen-year-old Latifatou Compaoré became an advocate for ending the practice after learning of her mother’s experience with FGM.

“She told me that one of the girls who had been cut the same day as her had experienced serious problems and died following a haemorrhage that no one had taken care of,” Compaoré told UNFPA.

“When she became a mom, she made the commitment that if she had girls, she would never cut them. And she kept her word,” she continued.

In countries where UNICEF and UNFPA work, some 18,000 communities have publicly disavowed the practice and many African countries have moved to implement legislation outlawing it.

For instance, in 2016 after Kenya banned FGM, FGM rates fell from 32 percent to 21 percent.

Accelerated Action Needed

But legislation and verbal commitments are not enough, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Without concerted, accelerated action, we could see a further 68 million girls could be subjected to this harmful practice,” he cautioned.

Diop similarly called for more efforts in allocating financial and human resources.

The goal of curbing FGM is highlighted in the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Its inclusion was praised because it was seen as an acknowledgement of the far-reaching consequences that FGM has – consequences that go beyond the individual to include social and economic repercussions for entire communities.

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved without full respect for the human rights of women and girls,” Guterres said in a statement.

The Secretary-General called upon governments to enact and enforce laws that protect the rights of girls and women and prevent FGM.

He also announced a new UN global initiative called the Spotlight Initiative which aims to create strong partnerships to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

“With the dignity, health and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste,” he said. “Together, we can and must end this harmful practice.”

*Marked annually on 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation aims to strengthen momentum towards ending the practice which is globally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women as well as perpetuates deep-rooted inequality between the sexes.

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Iraq’s Toxic Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iraqs-toxic-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:33:08 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154135 In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste. Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment. Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste.

Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment.

Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to conflict for decades, in recent years it has been exacerbated due to the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

“Wherever ISIS has been there has been huge environmental destruction and with that have come potentially major health threats to the public,” says Wim Zwijnenburg, a lead researcher at the dutch not-for profit, PAX.

Over the past two years, PAX has used public satellite images, social media and first-hand field research to track the environmental damage and the subsequent risk to public health in the northern parts of Iraq.

The findings are outlined in the report, ‘Living Under a Black Sky: Conflict Pollution and Environmental Health Concerns in Iraq.’

The report focuses heavily on ISIS’s destruction of oil refineries which were a signature move in their ‘scorched earth’ strategy.

In 2014, the group took control of the Qayyarah oil field and the Baiji Oil refinery, the latter being the nation’s largest, producing more than a third of Iraq’s domestic oil production. In both cases, Iraqi forces retook the facilities, but not before ISIS set fire to oil wells as they retreated.

“When we were there, there were burning oil slicks still flowing from oil wells,” Zwijnenburg said about his visit to the Qayyarah region last year. “I wanted to walk around to see more but had to wear a gas mask, you could already feel how the smoke affected young lungs.”

“We saw lakes that were full of solidified crude oil, that had spilt form the wells, and there were white sheep covered in black soot. It was surreal and apocalyptic.”

In each of these attacks, the threat to public health is substantial.

“The fires (from these oil wells) have burnt for months, releasing huge amounts of toxic residue into the air that people in the area – some people haven’t left, some can’t leave, some are returning – those people are inhaling this toxic air,” Zwijnenburg told IPS.

In the case of the Qayyarah, the Iraqi oil ministry estimates that about 20,000 cubic meters may have been released into the environment and haven’t been cleaned up yet.

In April 2017, the PAX team in conjunction with the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) conducted a survey with over twenty women from affected local communities about their concerns over the oil pollution in Qayyarah.

One of the participants voiced her worry for inter-generational health consequences.

“Locals have been suffering from burns, deformations and countless disability cases. Human genes are also affected due to the use of chemical weapons and the burning of oil wells and military remnants. The gene mutations will result in having more birth defects.”

Aside from oil pollution, the PAX report also highlighted the human health risks from what it called ‘urban damage’. That is, the dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals realized from damaged industrial sites and abandoned weapons facilities.

There has been extensive PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination in Mosul, due to damage to the city’s electricity network. Similarly, the city has recorded extensive sulphur contamination, from when ISIS bombed a 50,000 ton stockpile of the toxin. That attack released some 6 million tons of the substance into the air, leaving 20 people dead and hundreds hospitalized.

These other pollutant concerns are not surprising, as even before the ISIS conflict, Iraq was named the world’s most contaminated country.

It continues to see high levels of radiation and other toxic substances flow into its environment – all left over from previous conflicts such as the Gulf War.

So the question now is, how to clean up the region?

In a statement to IPS, Dr. Zaid Noori, an ambassador of Iraq in Nairobi, admitted that “Iraq is an environmental disaster” and that the Iraqi government needs help in cleaning up affected areas.

“The Government is doing all it can to remedy the situation, but due to the great amount of damage, pollution and contamination Iraq is seeking support and assistance from the international community and UN agencies to ensure clean and habitable environment to civilians in the liberated areas,” the statement read.

The PAX report similarly noted that Iraq would not likely be able to clean up the pollution and manage health fallouts alone.

“It really needs to be an international effort,” says Zwijnenburg. “We should have States pledging and proving funding and expertise to relevant UN organizations such an UN Environment, UN Habitat and UNDP – all of who are working with the Iraqi government.”

Currently, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is concentrating much of its efforts in Mosul, cleaning up ‘urban damage’.

There is no current international effort to clean up the regions oil pollution.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, told IPS that it is regrettable that environmental recovery work is not taken more seriously in reconstruction efforts.

“If environmental recovery work is built into the wider reconstruction effort – which it should be – recovery can and will happen in Iraq,” he says. “Now is the time for donors to make that investment, because we can’t afford to push it to one side.”

Zwijnenburg agrees. “Environment disasters like this are not always the top priority in recovery,” he says.

“The people living here know that and they’re concerned that as the fires die down, as time passes, that that their cause will be forgotten.”

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Pacific Islands Struggling to Meet SDG7 Energy Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/pacific-islands-struggling-meet-sdg7-energy-targets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pacific-islands-struggling-meet-sdg7-energy-targets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/pacific-islands-struggling-meet-sdg7-energy-targets/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 00:17:37 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153374 The four Pacific Island nations who are amongst the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) may be falling behind in meeting energy access targets because they are too busy devoting resources towards climate change. The Pacific island nations that are classified as LDC’s are Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. “Most of the resources in these nations […]

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A large scale energy renewal project in Samoa. Credit: UNDP Photo

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

The four Pacific Island nations who are amongst the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) may be falling behind in meeting energy access targets because they are too busy devoting resources towards climate change.

The Pacific island nations that are classified as LDC’s are Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

“Most of the resources in these nations meant for development –including energy development – have to be diverted towards adaptation to and mitigation of climate change impacts,” said Gauri Pradhan, the Global Coordinator of the policy and campaigning organisation, LDC Watch

“Due to this, Pacific Islands have focused less on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (energy access) and more on those such as SDG13 (climate action), SDG14 (oceans) and SDG15 (terrestrial ecosystem).”

LDC’s refer to a group of nations formally recognized by the UN as confronting severe structural impediments – they usually also face extensive economic and environmental vulnerability. Currently there are 47 nations classified as LDCs. Nations may graduate from the list if they meet certain criteria.

Pradhan’s comments follow the release of the United Nations Conference for Development and Trade (UNCTAD) ‘Least Developed Countries Report 2017.’

The report highlighted that LDC’s are falling alarmingly behind in their ability to meet Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) which pledges to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Indeed, according to the report, the majority of LDCs populations go without access to electricity.

The report stressed that energy is central to everything in development, stating that productive use of electricity is “critical to spur productivity and economic transformation” and ultimately lift nations out of the poverty trap.

Currently the energy situation in Pacific Island LDC’s is fairly bleak. For example, according to The World Bank, only 10 percent the population in the Solomon Islands enjoys access to electricity. The story is only marginally better in Vanuatu which has 30 per cent of its population connected.

In an interview with IPS, a spokesperson from the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) said that Pacific Island LDC’s face unique barriers to energy access compared to their landlocked counterparts.

“They face some unique challenges such as geographically dispersed populations spread across several small islands, lack of technical and human capacity as well as complex land tenures,” the spokesperson said.

Following a similar line of thought, Pradhan said that such barriers have kept Pacific Island LDC’s largely reliant on imported fossil fuels – exposing them to unpredictable and volatile prices fluctuations.

The sad irony here is that Pacific Island LDCs are blessed with an incredible abundance of water, wind and solar resources.

“Going forward, the only real, sustainable and long-term option is for these nations to invest in these renewable energy sources. But they’ve been limited to date by their geographical remoteness, their financial constraints, a lack of adequate energy infrastructure, technology, and weak institutional mechanisms,” Pradhan said.

Pradhan also highlighted that an overlooked reason for slow results in the renewable energy sector is because Pacific Island LDC’s resources are being spent trying to deal with climate change.

To illustrate his point, he provided this example:

“Pacific islands are experiencing unprecedented sea level rise… Saltwater intrusion into freshwater lenses can cause sever drinking water scarcity in the region. Kiribati has already expressed urgent need for funding for desalination plants to provide safe water for the 110,000 residents of country, where much of the water has become contaminated by seawater intrusion into groundwater,” he said.

“Most of the resources meant for development have to be diverted towards mitigating these types of climate change impacts.”

Despite this, Pradhan did make special mention of Vanuatu, stating that it’s the “only Pacific Island LDC that’s shown significant improvement in development of renewable energy.”

The Vanuatu Government’s ‘National Energy Road Map’ outlines a path for the nation to achieve universal energy access to energy by 2030. Already they have an immediate goal to have 65% of their energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

They have not only articulated their intentions but actively began to commit to them. The World Bank earlier this year approved a 4-million-dollar project to deliver solar and micro-grid electricity generators that will give 45,000 people across rural Vanuatu access to electricity for the first time.

It is projected that Vanuatu may be the next country to graduate from LDC status. The only countries to have previously done so are Botswana (1994), Cape Verde (2007), Maldives (2011), Samoa (2014).


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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“Ambition & Action” Needed to End Open Defecationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ambition-action-needed-end-open-defecation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ambition-action-needed-end-open-defecation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ambition-action-needed-end-open-defecation/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 20:46:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153212 What would life be like without access to a toilet? What if our waste was not properly disposed of? For those in the developed world, such questions are hard to fathom, but for 2.3 billion people around the world it’s a reality. Without access to a toilet many are forced to defecate in the open, […]

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“Ambition & Action” Needed to End Open Defecation

Women village councilors in Penakota, a village in southeast India, go out into a field to relieve themselves, as there are no toilets in their workplace. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 27 2017 (IPS)

What would life be like without access to a toilet? What if our waste was not properly disposed of?

For those in the developed world, such questions are hard to fathom, but for 2.3 billion people around the world it’s a reality. Without access to a toilet many are forced to defecate in the open, significantly increasing the changes of spreading diseases.

The sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG’s) include a pledge that aims to provide everyone with access to toilets and improved sanitation services by 2030.

“It is possible to reach these targets, we all share the vision of the SDG 6 and we know there has been considerable progress made already.”

“However, meeting the target will require a step-change in our ambition and action,” says WaterAid UK’s Tim Wainwright.

So far progress has been made. According to the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF, in the last 15 years alone, some 371 million people moved out of open defecation – about 25 million people per year.

With improved access to toilets and sanitation systems that properly manage waste, WHO estimate that up to 842,000 deaths could be avoided each year.
Improvements such as this have been in part due to the efforts of agencies such as UNICEF and charities like Water Aid. Both are committed to helping end open defecation, a practice carried out by as many as 900 million people around the world.

Open defecation is defined as the act of eliminating waste in the open – whether it be on the street, behind bushes or near running water.

The poor sanitary practice has been linked to spreading disease including, but not limited to:  cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Unsurprisingly, nations where the practice is most prevalent are also the countries that report the highest rates of child mortality per year.

“It contributes to a health crisis which claims the lives of 289,000 children under five each year, from diarrhea diseases directly linked to dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene,” Wainwright told IPS.

Wainwright stressed that ending the practice would involve more than just implementing toilets.

He said that “behavioral change through education” is needed to ensure that people become accustom to using toilets.

But improving global sanitation and meeting SDG 6 doesn’t end there. After all, even when there is a toilet – what happens to the waste?

It was this question that was given a platform when the United Nations marked World Toilet day earlier this month.

Addressing a roundtable conference to mark the day, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed focused on the full sanitation cycle, emphasizing safe disposal of waste and waste-water.

“Some systems provide treatment and safe disposal in situ, while others are connected to a sewer.  But for many onsite sanitation systems, there is a need for safe emptying and transport.”

“Pit latrines and septic tanks need to be regularly emptied and the waste taken to a treatment facility.”

“For billions of people, such proper sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective.”

Indeed, according to WHO, only 39 percent of the global population has access to sanitation service that safely removes their waste.

UNICEF and WHO have been keeping track of global sanitation and hygiene improvements since 1990 through their ‘Joint Monitoring Program’ (JPM).

A spokesperson for UNICEF told IPS: “SDG6 represents an opportunity to shape a much healthier world and we are tracking progress towards its ambitious targets, through the JPM.

“It (the JPM) aims to capture progressive improvements in global sanitation systems. It tracks through sanitation ladders, places with no sanitation services at all – which is open defecation – through to basic sanitation, to safely managed sanitation.”

With improved access to toilets and sanitation systems that properly manage waste, WHO estimate that up to 842,000 deaths could be avoided each year.

When discussing other outcomes of improved services, Water Aid’s Wainwright, stressed that one of the biggest outcomes would be improved lives for women and girls.

“There is a gender element to all of this. We know the impact of not having good sanitation is often worse for women and girls,” said Wainwright.

“For example, they are more likely to be subject to harassment or assault if they have to find a place outdoors to relieve themselves; they are more likely to bear the burden of walking long distances to collect water… and adolescent girls are more likely to miss school if there aren’t safe, private places in which to care for themselves during menstruation.”

Fortunately, SDG 6 acknowledges these issues by striving to ensure “adequate and equitable sanitation” whilst “paying attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”

A commitment to vulnerable groups is something that sets the SDG’s apart from the Millennium Development Goals, which were more generalise in its sanitations goals when they are were eventually added to the original MDG’s in 2002.

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