The MP for East Belfast obtained an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on the issue, to mark last week’s World Toilet Day, by focussing on the need for continued emphasis on sanitation and hygiene facilities as part of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Mrs Long has a longstanding interest in clean water and sanitation, both as a civil engineer and through her involvement with development charities and has brought these concerns to the House on a number of occasions.
Naomi Long MP said: “With 2.6 billion people still lacking access to adequate and hygienic sanitation, we must act now to get the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation back on track, if we are to have any chance of meeting the aim of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation by 2015.
Naomi Long MP said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring this important issue before the House and I want to focus particularly on how this issue contributes to the cycle of female poverty.
“The links between poor sanitation, water and illness are well established, with an increased risk of diarrhoea, as well as infections such as trachoma, which can lead to blindness; however, the consequences of not having access to a private toilet are much wider than health alone.
“One in three women worldwide who risk shame, harassment and even attack because they lack adequate facilities. Many women and young girls are forced to defecate in the open or in bushes or ditches, often having to walk long distances at night to do so, to preserve some personal dignity and privacy, but in doing so are placing their personal safety at greatest risk. Even at public latrines, they can be subject to assault, robbery and even rape as they try to access the most basic of facilities – a toilet – which we so often take for granted.
“In addition, the lack of facilities at schools, often results in girls having to abandon their education, particularly as they approach puberty, condemning them to a future of economic dependence and financial exclusion.
“We must create international momentum to get the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation back on track. It is currently falling short of its aim and, at its present rate of progress, it will be the 23rd century before Sub-Saharan Africa meets its sanitation MDG target and 350 years from the present to get to universal access. For South Asia it will be over 25 years before it meets its sanitation target and nearly 70 years to reach universal access at current rates of progress.
“Consideration must also be paid to how the current trends will be addressed after the MDGs have expired in 2015 as, if present trends continue, 2.4 billion people will still lack access to safe sanitation facilities at that time. I welcome the focus which the Government has placed on water, hygiene and sanitation and hope to press the Minister on what further action can be taken with the international community to move these objectives forward.”