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2008: UN International Year of Sanitation

The International Year of Sanitation was held in 2008 to speed progress for about 2.6 billion people who are without proper sanitation facilities.

UN Sanitation Day

2008, the International Year of Sanitation.

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This event coincided with other UN initiatives:

  • the International Year of Languages
  • the International Year of the Potato
  • the International Year of Planet Earth
  • What do people do?

    The UN was actively involved in working with organizations and communities worldwide to help provide sanitation facilities for those in need. The UN celebrated World Water Day 2008 with the theme “Sanitation matters!” on March 20, 2008. Official celebrations in Geneva featured high-level dignitaries including Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

    The Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) launched the Global Sanitation Fund in March 2008. The fund’s main goal was to boost sanitation expenditures for people-centered, community-managed and demand-driven work programs. It focused on contributing to achieving the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target by 2015. A workshop on sanitation, titled “Integration of Sanitation Policies into National Development Plans in the Caribbean Region”, was held in Kingston, Jamaica in April 2008. Government officials, scholars, non-governmental agencies, donor agencies, and private sector professionals were among those who participated in the event.

    Organizations, such as the World Water Council, the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) and the Netherland Water Partnership, were involved in promoting IYS. The Netherland Water Partnership (NWP) presented a booklet called "Smart Sanitation Solutions: examples of innovative, low-cost technologies for toilets, collection, transportation, treatment and use of sanitation products". This publication was written in collaboration with IRC, WASTE, and PRACTICA and supported by SIMAVI and Partners for Water.


    About 2.6 billion people do not have a clean or safe place to use for performing their bodily functions. They lack the basic necessity – a toilet. Every year inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene contribute to the deaths of about 1.5 million children. Recognition of the sanitation crisis prompted the UN to declare 2008 The International Year of Sanitation (IYS), and invited member states and organizations, as well as people worldwide, to get involved.

    The goal was to raise awareness and to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to reduce by half the proportion of the 2.6 billion people without access to basic sanitation by 2015. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the UN Water Task Force on Sanitation organized the theme year.

    The year featured major regional conferences on sanitation as part of capacity building initiatives, including one focused on school sanitation.  It also encouraged public and private partnerships to help tap into the comparative strengths of each sector to accelerate progress, advocate and raise awareness on sanitation, leverage additional funding, and develop country-level road maps.


    The International Year of Sanitation 2008 logo represents two major aspects of basic sanitation: hand washing and toilets. The artwork is made up of two icons. The first icon conveys the importance of hand washing and water and the second icon represents a pit latrine.  The logo is intended to demonstrate that the lack of basic sanitation and proper toilet facility is a reality for millions of people.

    The words "International Year of Sanitation” appear above the two icons and “2008” is below the icons. The IYS logo may be subject to national variations. A national variation of the logo maintains the core design but may add, to the top or bottom, the name of their country (or a city or locality within that country) and/or a slogan judged appropriate to the IYS and suitable in the national or local context.

    Topics: UN Year