World Water Day: Sanitation and water for all is not a pipe dream
Dirty water and poor sanitation are the biggest killers of children in Sub-Saharan Africa. The resulting diarrhoeal diseases claim the lives of more than a million children under the age of five worldwide every year; that’s more than the combined number succumbing to AIDS, malaria and measles.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the past 20 years, the UN Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people living without access to clean, safe water has been reached, transforming the lives of two billion people.
Today is World Water Day, and we want to focus the world’s attention on the other half – the 783 million people who still risk their lives every single day by drinking dirty water, and the millions of women and girls who still shoulder the burden of water collection, missing out on an education and the chance to earn a living.
We also aim to highlight the fact that sanitation remains one of the most off-track global target, with 2.5 billion people living without anywhere safe to go to the toilet. That’s one in three of the world’s population. On current trends, it will be over 250 years before parts of Africa have universal access to both water and sanitation.
To affect change, water and sanitation need to be prioritised by governments as well as by other development sectors, and aid must be used effectively.
Poor targeting of funds means donor governments currently invest the majority of their water and sanitation aid budget in large infrastructure projects. In 2010, donors spent just 20% of their funding on basic systems, overlooking the needs of the poorest communities.
Although the UK Department for International Development (DFID) directs its money to the areas of greatest need, it spends less than 2% of its direct aid budget on water and sanitation.
World Water Day is a fantastic opportunity for people across the globe to unite in the call for urgent action to tackle this critical crisis.
This year, it comes a month before government ministers, donors and civil society organisations will come together at a high level meeting for the Sanitation and Water for All partnership in Washington to decide steps towards increasing access to these vital services.
More than 350,000 people across the world, from Albania to Zambia, will be walking as part of the World Walks for Water and Sanitation campaign, urging governments to take action to end the crisis plaguing millions of the world’s poorest people.
There will also be holding fundraising events, and debates will be taking place in both the House of Lords and House of Commons.
I’ve seen the difference water and sanitation can make to people’s lives, and the way they form the building blocks of development, relieving women of the burden of water collection, keeping children healthy and in school, and enabling economic prosperity.
Laurentine Yaméogo (pictured) from Burkina Faso is proof of that. The extra time and energy she has since her village received clean water mean she can earn a living, making soap and growing peanuts to sell.
“We used to get water from a steep pond,” she says. “We were afraid to collect the water because of the crocodiles. We had lots of illness, especially stomach problems. Often my children couldn’t go to school. Since the well was rehabilitated, we haven’t had these illnesses.”
I truly believe that ensuring global access to clean, safe water isn’t a pipe dream. With the right political will and targeted investment, many of us will be able to see this crucial goal achieved within our lifetime.Tagged in: charity, death, diarrhoea, health, sanitation, Sub-Saharan Africa, water, wateraid, world water day
Recent Posts on Health
- Christian GPs and the morning after pill: Much needed clarification
- Justin Webb on the medical advances in tackling heart disease
- Dementia Awareness Week: Should we keep an open mind to spiritual solutions?
- Hearing loss: An invisible impairment and a preventable disability
- Secondary Breast Cancer: Good news but feeling blue
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter