For a healthier world: safely managed sanitation

This course has four modules and is designed to help governments, development agencies, civil society partners, and others working with them, to achieve safely managed sanitation (SMS) for their populations. Through the four modules, we’ll look at the state of the world’s sanitation, the health rationale for safely managed sanitation, what can be done at the national level, and tools to help you work with SMS. Each module includes a simple self-test to help you recall key information, and a certificate is provided upon course completion.

Photo credits: Sokhin / UNICEF

Please note: These materials were launched on 18/11/2022.

Language: English
Not disease specific

Course information

Overview: Safe sanitation systems are fundamental to protect public health. WHO supports capacity building and implementation through guidelines and tools on sanitation and health, safe use of wastewater and safe recreational water environments, using risk assessment to identify, prioritize, manage and monitor coordinated action to protect public health. However, the world is alarmingly off-track to deliver Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 6.2, where Member States committed to achieve universal access to safe sanitation for everyone, everywhere by 2030. In fact, the rate at which sanitation coverage is increasing will need to quadruple globally if the world is to achieve the SDG sanitation targets. To eliminate inequalities progress must move four times faster in rural areas globally, five times faster in urban areas globally, nine times faster in fragile contexts, and 15 times faster in least developed countries. Overall, at current rates of progress, only 67 per cent will have safe sanitation services, leaving 2.8 billion without by 2030. Without universal access, the world will not claim the myriad health, environmental and socio-economic benefits that come from safely managed sanitation.

This course, part of WHO’s efforts to support capacity building globally, unpacks the health rationale for safely managed sanitation (SMS) and how programming approaches need to adapt to improve health outcomes. A safely managed sanitation service chain – from toilets, to containment, to transport, treatment, and finally safe use or disposal of wastewater and faecal by-products – is essential to protecting the health of individuals and communities and the environment. The course also describes SDG 6.2 monitoring definitions for SMS and how that can be adapted and contextualized into national definitions and embedded in national level instruments for implementation and monitoring. Finally, it will present tools to assess status and monitor implementation of definitions at national and local level-- all to help governments, and the development agencies, civil society partners, and others working with them, to achieve safely managed sanitation for their populations.

Course duration: This course will take approximately 3 hours to complete.

Certificates: A Record of Achievement certificate will be available to participants who score at least 80% of the total points available across all of the quizzes. A Confirmation of Participation certificate is also available for participants who complete at least 80% of the course material. Participants who receive a Record of Achievement can also download an Open Badge for this course. Click here to learn how.

What you'll learn

  • Describe sanitation’s impact on health, economics, and the environment
  • Describe health risks along the sanitation chain
  • Recall the definitions for safely managed sanitation (SMS) at each step of the sanitation chain
  • Describe how to accelerate progress
  • Identify sanitation programming approaches to improve health impact
  • Recall how to embed definitions for safely managed sanitation in national targets, legislation, regulation, standards, and plans
  • Summarize how to access and use tools to assess the sanitation situation
  • Identify the role of the health sector in delivering sanitation
  • Identify where to find more WHO technical information and tools

Who this course is for

  • Sanitation, hygiene and health practitioners
  • Governments
  • Development agencies
  • Civil society organizations
  • Anyone interested in supporting the effort to achieve safely managed sanitation for all

Course contents

  • Module 1: State of the World’s Sanitation:

    This introductory module that gives the broader context for safely managed sanitation (SMS) by providing an overview of the state of the world’s sanitation. By the end of the module, you will: explain the health, social and economic impacts of poor sanitation; explain the status of progress toward SDG Target 6.2 and the change in rates of progress needed to meet SDG6.2; describe the status of policy and finance for sanitation; identify how governments can accelerate progress through better governance, financing, capacity development, data and information, and innovation under the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.
  • Module 2: The health rationale and definitions for safely managed sanitation (SMS) in different contexts:

    Module 2 presents the health rationale and definitions for safely managed sanitation (SMS) in different contexts. This module will also cover the core recommendations of the Guidelines on sanitation and health issued by WHO and also the normative definitions for safe sanitation relevant for programme design and delivery at each step of the service chain. By the end of this module, you will: explain how safely managed sanitation is linked to health improvements; describe the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) definitions of SMS for global monitoring of SDG 6; and define safety features at each step of the sanitation chain (toilet, containment, emptying and transport, treatment, disposal/use) in programmes in terms of design and operation and incremental measure WHO Guidelines on sanitation and health.
  • Module 3: Embedding definitions in national policy, standards, regulations and plans:

    Module 3 focuses on embedding SMS in national policy, programmes, standards, regulations and plans. This module focuses on reflecting SMS definitions and targets at the national and local government level and touches on customer services, public services and infrastructure because, for example, large infrastructure planning and costs can be partly covered from the national level, since they require major investment which possibly only high level national, regional or external financing can provide. By the end of this module, which draws mostly on Chapter 4 of the WHO Guidelines on sanitation and health, you will: describe SMS target setting at the national level and identify opportunities for reflecting SMS in national targets; identify what mechanisms (e.g. technical guideline, utility regulations) SMS can be reflected, what can be included to reduce risk, and who is responsible along the SMS chain; and list examples where system strengthening for SMS has been successfully applied.
  • Module 4: Assessment tools for use at national and local levels:

    Module 4 presents assessment tools on safely managed sanitation for use at national and local level. There are many assessment tools – for advocacy, national policy and planning. These tools are available for assessing sanitation status and progress, the enabling environment, financial flows, stakeholders and markets, and targeting by disease. By the end of this module, you will: identify highest risks in sanitation systems using Excreta Flow Diagrams, and high risk locations using disease prevalence maps; describe simple Sanitary Inspection forms to assess and identify improvements; and explain how to use Sanitation Safety Planning (SSP) to support improvements in district wide and urban areas.
  • Assessment

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Certificate Requirements

  • Gain a Record of Achievement by earning at least 80% of the maximum number of points from all graded assignments.
  • Gain a Confirmation of Participation by completing at least 80% of the course material.