In 2007, readers of the British Medical Journal were asked to vote for the biggest medical milestone of the last 200 years. They chose sanitation. Modern sanitation has added 20 years to the average human life. Good sanitation is also economically sensible. In 2012, the World Health Organization estimated the global return on sanitation spending is US $5.5 for every US $1 invested. Where good sanitation exists, people are healthier, wealthier, and cleaner. Lack of access to improved sanitation costs countries up to 7 percent of GDP.
Yet, sanitation remains one of the most off-track Millennium Development Goals, with 2.5 billion people still lacking access, leading to thousands of child deaths every day. With the basic health and human dignity of several billion poor people at stake, something has to be done -- today.