An understanding of the sanitation situation is crucial for planning and evaluating effectiveness of sanitation interventions. Such knowledge is gained through monitoring sanitation performance. At the international level, sanitation monitoring is done by the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The JMP tracks progress made towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sanitation target using information collected from household surveys. This article critically describes and reviews the JMP sanitation monitoring approach based on information from literature. The paper argues that while JMP methods have been useful in reporting sanitation progress, it has a number of weaknesses which have led to questions being raised on the sanitation coverage figures. Specifically, the JMP has been criticized for its usage of the term ‘improved’ sanitation and the technology-based sanitation ladder. It is argued that this approach does not monitor other components of sanitation systems such as storage, transport, treatment and disposal and/or re-use of human excreta. In addition, the sustainability of the sanitation systems is also overlooked. All these factors have led to an overestimation of sanitation coverage. A monitoring approach which considers the function of sanitation and sustainability of sanitation systems is therefore recommended.

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