Billions still lack access to safe water and sanitation: UN-WHO report

UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water  2014 for the fulfillment of the much touted Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets is out and the verdict is not very positive.  

The report Investing in Water and Sanitation: Increasing Access, Reducing Inequalities, a joint publication of UN-Water and WHO is very critical of the progress made to fulfill the millennium goals and targets for water, sanitation and hygiene; popularly termed WASH. After 14 years of investments and implementations, the report states that billions of people still don’t have access to safe water or sanitation facilities; though it mentions that progress has been made. Of all the MDG targets, water and sanitation seems to have made the least progress. The report is a mine of data from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies.

The WHO-UN press release highlights the neglect of rural regions while most of the funds are utilized by the urban sector. The reports projects that Serbia, Thailand are on their way to fulfill the rural sanitation universal 100% goals by 2015 while Bangladesh, Ethiopia can achieve the targets by 2020, five years later than the intended timeline. Heavily populated countries like Nigeria and India are expected to require 10 to 15 years for reaching the targets.  Diana Dunkli, water expert from Venezuela reacted,”There is a huge gap in implementation, as only 20% of countries have national WASH plans fully implemented and regularly reviewed”.

The reports mentions that in most countries, WASH policies exist on paper; implementation is poor and there is a major lack of human resources. Karina Vink, researcher at GRIPS, Tokyo based policy institute says, “Implementation is often undertaken in regions that are easy for reaching the goals; most of the vulnerable communities are left behind”. Other causes cited for inadequate progress is due to poor monitoring by agencies and lack of donor coordination, especially in countries where multiple donors are involved .

The report states that only 31% of countries use indicators to track expenditure for sanitation while 45 % only for drinking-water. Meanwhile, aid for water and sanitation, saw a 30 % increase to over US$ 10.9 billion in 2012, from US$ 8.3 billion in 2010.

As the UN gets ready to launch the grandiose Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 replacing the MDG, the world will watch closely the SDGs process as goals and targets are being debated for major critical and controversial issues such as food and energy security, climate change and peace building.  Vink adds, “The proposed SDGs attempts to improve reach to vulnerable groups by stating that only if you reach the goal by x% for all populations, it will be counted. This ambitious goal does not address the implementation gaps however”.

Click here for Key Findings: the Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water