Climate change: a threat and an opportunity for safe sanitation
Poor sanitation exacerbates waterborne illness such as diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid. As climate extremes become more common due to climate change, they will put stress on the world’s water and sanitation systems – many of which are aging, poorly planned, or nonexistent. This means more outbreaks of waterborne disease, and those without access to safely managed sanitation – almost half of the world’s population – are at the greatest risk.
Flooding and heavy rainfall overwhelm water and sanitation systems, leading to contamination of water sources with diarrheal pathogens and, ultimately, more diarrheal disease. Droughts and fires result in water scarcity, leading to the use of unsafe water sources and lower access to handwashing, which also causes increased diarrheal disease. Finally, climate change-linked famine and malnutrition will also put children at increased risk of all infectious disease, putting more urgency behind prevention efforts.
But well-planned sanitation holds untapped opportunity. With sanitation innovations, we could help mitigate future impacts of climate change while also addressing longstanding poor health outcomes due to insufficient sanitation.
- We could reimagine the toilet.
- We could save water and money through non-sewered sanitation systems.
- We could turn waste into fertilizer or energy.
- We could guarantee women and girls the safety and dignity of toilets, in turn lifting economies.
Sanitation systems are an untapped solution in climate change adaptation. Explore the evidence, learn about innovative sanitation efforts, and find out how you can help.