Indicator 46. Percentage of population using safely managed sanitation services, by urban/rural (modified MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

The indicator measures the percentage of the population in urban and rural areas using safely managed sanitation services, as defined by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. This ambitious indicator goes beyond the pre-2015 “improved sanitation” indicator.

Safely managed sanitation services are those that effectively separate excreta from human contact, and ensure that excreta do not re-enter the immediate environment. This means that household excreta are contained, extracted, and transported to designated disposal or treatment site, or, as locally appropriate, are safely re-used at the household or community level. Each of the following types of facilities are considered adequate if the facility is not shared with other households: a pit latrine with a superstructure, and a platform or squatting slab constructed of durable material (composting latrines, pour-flush latrines, etc.); a toilet connected to a septic tank; or a toilet connected to a sewer network (small bore or conventional).1

Access to adequate excreta disposal facilities is fundamental to decrease the fecal risk and the frequency of associated diseases. The use of basic sanitation facilities reduces diarrhea-related morbidity in young children and also helps accelerate economic and social development in countries where poor sanitation is a major cause for missed work and school days because of illness. Its association with other socioeconomic characteristics (education, income) and its contribution to general hygiene and quality of life also make it a good universal indicator of human development.2


By urban/rural. Further opportunities for disaggregation to be reviewed.

Comments and limitations:

Since this indicator is quite ambitious and the objective is progressive elimination of inequalities in access, an intermediary indicator to measure universal basic access by 2030 could be “Percentage of population using basic adequate sanitation.”

In addition, this measure does not fully measure the quality of services, i.e. accessibility, quantity, and affordability,3 or the issue of facilities for adequate menstrual hygiene management.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Household surveys and administrative data.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) collects data for this indicator. To the extent possible the collection and monitoring mechanisms should be fully integrated in the national statistical systems.

  1. WSSCC (2014).

  2. UN DESA (2007b). Indicators of Sustainable Development: Guidelines and Methodologies – Methodology sheets. UN DESA: New York.

  3. WSSCC (2014).