Co-authors: Evan Thomas and German Sturzenegger
Technological innovations have the potential to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development—if we rise responsibly to the challenge of measuring their impact.
Fifteen years is a long time for technology. In 2003 the “World Wide Web” was pervasive by 1986 standards. Yet today, the web of 2003 may very well have been spun by a single spider.
It’s been over two years since the United Nations introduced the Sustainable Development Goals. How can we better monitor progress toward them? This month, the World Bank Group and the InterAmerican Development Bank, along with collaborators from partnering institutions, published an overview of innovations in the monitoring of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) impact measures, directly tied to SDG #6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The authors explore the potential of new measurement technologies to “revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development in the sector,” one of the hopes pinned to the SDG framework.
Co-authors: Evan Thomas and German Sturzenegger
As a new year of insightful and interesting blogs begins here, we celebrate some of the most popular posts on The Water Blog from 2017.
It was inspiring to see so many committed water practitioners at World Water Week in Stockholm the last week of August, coming together to share experiences and advance global action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of safe and accessible water and sanitation for all (SDG6) by 2030. As we know, access to water and sanitation is key to thriving communities. It determines whether poor girls are educated, whether cities are healthy places to live, whether industries grow, and whether framers can withstand the impacts of floods and droughts.
Without it, we are limiting our full potential. In fact, today we face a “silent emergency”, with stunted grown affecting more than a third of all children under five in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Niger and Guatemala. This was presented in the new World Bank report WASH Poverty Diagnostics, provides new data on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for 18 countries and finds that we get the biggest bang for the buck when we attack childhood stunting and mortality from many angles simultaneously, in a coordinated way. While improving water and sanitation alone does improve a child’s well-being, the impacts on child height are multiplied when water, sanitation, health, and nutrition interventions are combined. The report also pinpoints the geographical areas in a country where access to services are low or missing completely, and suggests that to move the needle on improving poverty indicators, policies need to be implemented and resources have to be better targeted to reach the most vulnerable.
Have you ever wondered how your life chances are affected by where you were born? Odds of being born at all are already miraculously small, but only one in ten of us is born into the relative security of a high-income country. What if you are born in Niger or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)? Before you could even walk or talk, your challenges would be daunting. That's because, despite progress, deaths of children under five years old are more than twenty times higher than in the EU and nearly ten times higher than in China.
Even if you survived, you would confront another major risk to your development: malnutrition. In Niger and DRC, almost one out of every two children is stunted. Stunting has significant and long-lasting negative effects on early childhood development, impeding physiological and mental development, and making small children more vulnerable to disease.
At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.
According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.
The region is also not homogenous. There is a large disparity in the levels of treatment per country: we see countries like Chile, which treats 90% of its wastewater, and countries like Costa Rica, which treats approximately 4% of its wastewater.
Last week, on April 20th, Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org, addressed ministers of finance, water, and sanitation from across the world at the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Finance Ministers’ High Level Meeting at the 2017 World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. The meeting focused on finding ways to fill the enormous financing gap via innovative financial solutions. Mr. Damon urged ministers to consider the full breadth of financing options to achieve the goal of providing safe, affordable, and sustainable water and sanitation for all.
Women and girls are particularly affected by the lack of safe and accessible water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). They suffer during menstruation and childbirth, and also carry the burden of hours spent collecting water when is it not easily accessible, causing them to miss school and risk rape and harassment. To address this, women and girls are emphasized in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6: “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”
While anecdotal evidence is important — and well known — it is critical to also collect data and indicators to quantify the problems, to sensitize and inform stakeholders, and ultimately, to find solutions. However, we are struggling with a global lack of monitoring to collect such data.
Today, on World Water Day, we are humbled by the fact that over 663 million people on the planet still live without access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. With these challenges persisting around the world despite decades of hard work in the water and santiation sectors, are we at a point where we need to take a step back from current solutions and practices and do business differently?
The new Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic (WASH PD) initiative suggests exactly that.
New findings from the WASH PD initiative (led by the World Bank Water Global Practice in collaboration with Poverty, Governance, and Health, Nutrition, and Population) for the first time advances our understanding in a systematic manner of the relationship between poverty and WASH at the country level. Our deep analysis of 18 countries—across six regions—provides us with new evidence of realities that must be acknowledged, and shows without a doubt that we must work together across sectors if we are to find solutions with sustained impacts on the ground.