(Image courtesy of World Vision International.)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN-Water revealed in a news release yesterday that significant gaps in funding are hampering the progress of global efforts to provide improved water and sanitation. This is according to a new report from WHO on behalf of UN-Water.
A biannual report, the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS 2014), contains data from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies. The report offers a comprehensive analysis of strengths and challenges in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provision in and across countries.
“Water and sanitation are essential to human health,” says Dr Maria Neira, director of the WHO Department of Public Health and the Environment. “Political commitment to ensure universal access to these vital services is at an all-time high. International aid for the sector is on the rise. But we continue to see major financial gaps at the country level, particularly in rural areas.”
Indeed, according to WHO, two thirds of the 94 countries surveyed recognised drinking-water and sanitation as a universal human right in national legislation; more than 80 per cent reported having national policies in place for drinking-water and sanitation, and more than 75 per cent have policies for hygiene.
Furthermore, more than 75 per cent of countries reported having specific measures in their national plans to provide water and sanitation for low-income populations.
The report also reveals that international aid for water and sanitation is on the rise: financial commitments for WASH increased by 30 per cent between 2010 and 2012 – from US$ 8.3 billion to US$ 10.9 billion.
“The report guides governments in knowing where progress in WASH is being made and where more resources need to be allocated,” says President John Agyekum Kufuor, Chair of Sanitation and Water for All.
“As we identify the financial and human resource gaps, governments and donors can be more strategic in supporting policies and in implementing sustainable programmes to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation for all people,” says Chris Williams, Executive Director of the UN-based Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
And investments in water and sanitation pay off. According to WHO estimates, for every dollar invested in water and sanitation, there is a US$ 4.3 return in the form of reduced health care costs for individuals and society. Millions of premature deaths amongst children can be prevented, as well as illnesses related to malnutrition and water-borne diseases. For adults, investment in water and sanitation means longer and healthier lives.
The benefits extend to productivity in the workplace, and reduced pollution of water and land resources. Gains in quality of life, says WHO, include improved school attendance, greater privacy and safety – especially for women, children and the elderly – and a greater sense of dignity for all.
In Papua New Guinea, World Vision PNG’s WASH projects in Bougainville, Western Province, and a school WASH project in Morobe continue to improve water and sanitation provision in the provinces, with funding deriving from the private sector and civil society organisations; district governments also contribute to World Vision’s WASH initiatives in Papua New Guinea.
World Vision PNG Director Curt von Boguslawski says, “WASH is a basic need. It can save lives, it can help families in many ways. I have seen mothers who don’t have to walk to fetch water anymore and they started to have time to care better for their children and even have some additional income generated.”
Today, 20 November 2014, the United Nations will mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognising “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” and “the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development”.
Despite political commitment to water and sanitation provision, there is still work to be done; according to WHO, 2.5 billion men, women and children around the world lack access to basic sanitation services, with 748 million people without ready access to an improved source of drinking-water.
“The gains of good WASH programming are well worth the investment needed,” said Mr von Boguslawski. “PNG is on the right track by formulating a WASH policy and I wish more funding will be directed so that every child has access to clean and safe water.”