Access to sanitation and clean water for the world’s poorest is the topic of a new report from Wateraid and Development Initiatives, Addressing the Shortfall, published on Sunday.
The targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) regarding access to clean sources of water were met in aggregate in 2010, a full five years ahead of schedule. However, progress has been uneven, while considerable effort is still required to meet the headline goals in sanitation. Between 1990 and 2010 over two billion people gained an improved source of water, so vital in preventing life threatening diarrheal diseases, fatal worms, dysentery and cholera. This achievement illustrates how planned and well-targeted investment can deliver effective results on a global scale.
However, the report outlines major challenges ahead, with considerable inequality persisting in the provision of water and sanitation services. The regions of sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia and the Pacific have seen a stagnation or even reversal in their progress towards these headline goals. The greatest inequality is experienced by the urban poor and those living in rural areas and most heavily by women amongst those groups.
A central finding of the report is the lagging international investment in water and sanitation relative to other sectors such as health, education and governance. This lag persists, despite widely recognised role of clean water and sanitation in reducing disease, child mortality, addressing gender inequality and improving education.
Source: OECD CRS database
The new report, which aims to complement UN Water’s 2012 Global analysis and assessment of sanitation and drinking-water (GLAAS) report, also highlights a mismatch between countries that are in dire need of water and sanitation investment and the targeting of international assistance. Middle-income countries, for example, dominated the share of aid recipients in this field between 2005 and 2010. Top recipients in this period included Iraq, India, Viet Nam, Malaysia and China, as opposed to less developed countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. In fact, the 27 countries which accounted for 90% of diarrhoeal deaths (primarily caused by dirty water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene) received only 39% of water and sanitation aid.
Iraq, for example, is a middle-income country where 70% of the population has access to sanitation and 80% to water. The country received US$4.5 billion in water and sanitation aid from 2004 to 2010, more than any other country in the list of top ten recipients of water and sanitation aid over the period (see table 1 below). Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, a least developed country which has a population two and a half times the size of Iraq’s, only 21% of people have access to adequate sanitation and 44% to clean water. Ethiopia received less than a quarter of the amount of aid received by Iraq between 2004 and 2010. Clearly, strategic, commercial and historical interests continue to influence the targeting of aid.
Source: OECD CRS Database
There are currently 2.5 billion people around the world without access to clean water and sanitation. This number is greater in absolute terms than it was in 1990. Addressing the shortfall provides a comprehensive assessment of trends in international water and sanitation development assistance and the extent to which resources are meeting needs, together with profiles of key international donors. The report is a call for action for donors and reaffirms the need to tackle the unacceptable loss of human life brought about by water and sanitation poverty.
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