This is one article in a four-part PLoS Medicine series on water and sanitation.
2.6 billion people in the world lack adequate sanitation—the safe disposal of human excreta. Lack of sanitation contributes to about 10% of the global disease burden, causing mainly diarrhoeal diseases.
In the past, government agencies have typically built sanitation infrastructure, but sanitation professionals are now concentrating on helping people to improve their own sanitation and to change their behaviour.
Improved sanitation has significant impacts not only on health, but on social and economic development, particularly in developing countries.
The health sector has a strong role to play in improving sanitation in developing countries through policy development and the implementation of sanitation programmes.