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Sanitation services refer to the management of excreta from the facilities used by individuals, through emptying and transport of excreta for treatment and eventual discharge or reuse.​​​​​​

Safely managed sanitation explainer
SDG baseline estimates for sanitation services from the JMP 2017 report

The new JMP ladder for sanitation

The JMP service ladders are used to benchmark and compare service levels across countries. These have been updated and expanded to facilitate enhanced global monitoring of drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The new ladders build on the established improved/unimproved facility type classification, thereby providing continuity with past monitoring, and introduce new rungs with additional criteria relating to service levels.

Improved sanitation facilities are those designed to hygienically separate excreta from human contact. There are three main ways to meet the criteria for having a safely managed sanitation service (SDG 6.2). People should use improved sanitation facilities which are not shared with other households, and the excreta produced should either be:

  • treated and disposed in situ,
  • stored temporarily and then emptied and transported to treatment off-site, or
  • transported through a sewer with wastewater and then treated off-site.

If the excreta from improved sanitation facilities are not safely managed then people using those facilities will be classed as having a basic sanitation service (SDG 1.4). People using improved facilities which are shared with other households will be classified as having a limited service. The JMP will also continue to monitor the population practising open defecation which is an explicit focus of SDG target 6.2. These services level classifications can also be visualized using excreta flow diagrams. 

Sanitation ladder

  • Safely managed

    Use of improved facilities which are not shared with other households and where excreta are safely disposed in situ or transported and treated off-site

  • Basic

    Use of improved facilities which are not shared with other households

  • Limited

    Use of improved facilities shared between two or more households

  • Unimproved

    Use of pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines or bucket latrines

  • Open defecation

    Disposal of human faeces in fields, forests, bushes, open bodies of water, beaches and other open spaces or with solid waste

Note: Improved sanitation facilities are those designed to hygienically separate excreta from
human contact, and include: flush/pour flush to piped sewer system, septic tanks or pit latrines; ventilated improved pit latrines, composting toilets or pit latrines with slabs

Monitoring SDG targets related to sanitation

The Sustainable Development Goals include aspirational global targets to achieve universal access to basic services and to progressively improve the standard of WASH services by 2030 and the JMP is responsible for official reporting on corresponding global SDG indicators related to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (see SDG Monitoring).

The 2017 thematic report on safely managed sanitation and hygiene (forthcoming) considers the implications of target 6.2 "by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations", and outlines JMP plans for enhanced global monitoring of sanitation and hygiene in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Emptying a septic tank
© UNICEF/UNI81082/Noorani

Enhancing data collection 

In preparation for SDG monitoring, the JMP has collaborated with the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) programme to develop and test new questions and indicators which fill data gaps regarding sanitation services. New questions have been developed and standardized that collect information from households on emptying of on-site sanitation storage facilities, as well as the number of households with "sewer connections" that actually discharge to open drains, and should not be counted as safely managed. The MICS questionnaires and tools have been updated for the sixth round of MICS surveys starting in 2017.

The JMP has also worked with a Sanitation Treatment Task Force to develop questionnaires for collecting information on excreta management from service operators such as desludging companies, and faecal sludge or wastewater treatment plants.