The Global Sanitation Fund's latest Progress Report details how support for nationally-led programs has helped 7 million people in over 20,500 communities become open-defecation free, improved toilets for 4.2 million people and seen eight million people gain access to hand-washing facilities. The governments of Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom contributed.

Established by WSSCC, the GSF funds large-scale behavior change activities to help poor people in the world's hardest-to-reach areas attain safe sanitation and adopt good hygiene practices. The community-led, government-backed activities support existing national efforts, uniting a diverse group of stakeholders to address deficiencies in access to sanitation and hygiene.

2.5 billion people - 40% of the global population - lack access to decent sanitation, with a billion of these practicing open defecation. Diarrheal disease, largely caused by poor sanitation and hygiene, is a leading cause of malnutrition, stunting and child mortality, claiming the lives of nearly 600,000 under-5 every year. Inadequate facilities also affect education and economic productivity and impact the dignity and personal safety of women and girls.

In 2014 alone, the GSF reported an almost 90% increase in the number of people living open-defecation free (ODF) in the target regions of 13 countries across Africa and Asia. GSF also supported a 55% increase in the number of people gaining access to improved toilets in those same areas.

"These results prove that we are moving closer to our vision of a world where everybody has sustained sanitation and hygiene, supported by safe water," said Chris Williams, Executive Director, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). "This is a crucial step towards achieving better health, reducing poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability for the most marginalized people in the world."