Climate, Sanitation and Health

July 2019

An estimated 4.5 billion people worldwide live without access to safely managed sanitation (WHO and UNICEF, 2017) which puts them at risk of infectious diseases. Climate variability and change exacerbate these risks by placing strain on sanitation systems, and therefore must be considered to ensure sanitation technologies and services are designed, operated and managed in a way that minimises public health risks. Climate change projections indicate changes to the timing, intensity and spatial distribution of weather- and climate-related events. Increasing global and regional temperatures have the potential to increase the frequency, intensity and duration some severe extreme weather events; increase variable and unpredictable precipitation; and increase mean sea-levels (IPCC, 2014a). These changes affect sanitation systems and the infrastructure, water resources, water services, and other social and governance systems on which sanitation depends. Many of the direct and indirect effects on sanitation pose a danger to human health and development. Greater attention to understanding the links between climate change and sanitation is needed to fill gaps in knowledge and improve practice (Howard et al., 2016). World Health Organisation (WHO) recently developed guidelines on sanitation and health (WHO, 2018), aiming to support countries to meet development commitments under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal agenda. These guidelines provide recommendations and guidance for effective consideration of public health in sanitation policies and actions. This discussion paper further expands on the critical links between climate change, sanitation and human health.

Additional details

PublisherWorld Health Organization
ThemesClimate change, Vulnerability, resilience and adaptation
LanguageEnglish

Learn more about SLH Research

We use a range of research approaches, which aim to draw attention to urgent knowledge gaps, blind spots and emerging questions, often at a critical point in time, to support policy-makers, practitioners and partners in navigating and responding swiftly.

SLH Research and Learning