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Water flows through development – big ideas from World Water Week

Guangzhe CHEN's picture
Guangzhe Chen, Senior Director, the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, 
speaks at the opening plenary of World Water Week 2017. Credit: Tim Wainwright

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.

Starting a marathon with a broken ankle: how poor water and sanitation sets children behind

Maximilian Leo Hirn's picture
Children in Koutoukalé, Niger

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. Starting off in life stunted is akin to starting a marathon with a broken ankle.

Self-Help Women’s Groups in India help change behavior around diets and toilet use to improve health

Vinay Kumar Vutukuru's picture



Sushila Devi, a mother of four in the rural Rohtas district of Bihar, India, has no significant assets and depends primarily on casual labor for income. She recently was able to take out a bank loan of INR 12,000 (US$180), which she used to construct a toilet in her family home

It was the Self-Help Group (SHG) in her village that persuaded Sushila of the importance of sanitation for her children’s health and nutrition, and helped her get the loan she needed. SHGs generally consist of 12 to 15 rural women, grouped into larger federations. They engage with formal financial institutions to help unbanked households access financial services, acting as platforms for standardized large-scale sensitization of community members on a variety of subjects.

Sushila’s actions are part of a larger change driven across Bihar by the recently launched Bihar Transformative Development Project (BTDP), commonly known as JEEViKA-II. This joint initiative of the Government of Bihar and the World Bank covers 300 (56 percent) of the blocks of rural Bihar. The project is working through SHGs to deliver awareness, training, finance, and monitoring on sanitation and nutrition in an integrated manner.

Reaching the last mile in Latin America and the Caribbean: How to provide sustainable water supply and sanitation to Indigenous Peoples

Clementine Marie Stip's picture
Young Wayúu girls go fetch water in La Guajira, Colombia

Extending the human right of access to water supply and sanitation (WSS) services to Indigenous Peoples represents the final step for many countries to reach universal coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). As the 7th Rural Water Supply Network Forum is underway in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, we must remind ourselves what “inclusion” means in the WSS sector. Poverty levels among Indigenous Peoples are more than twice those found among other Latin Americans, and they are 10 to 25 percent less likely to have access to piped water and 26 percent less likely to have access to improved sanitation.

With dire consequences on health, productivity, and well-being, these access gaps also exemplify two shortcomings of past engagement with Indigenous Peoples in the WSS sector: Indigenous territories have often been overlooked, and, even where investments specifically target Indigenous Peoples, WSS service sustainability remains a large issue. Several barriers explain this: investors’ and service providers’ lack of understanding of Indigenous Peoples' unique social and cultural characteristics, limited engagement with Indigenous authorities and attention to their priorities and aspirations, and the remoteness and difficult access to many Indigenous communities, to name a few. More generally, we need a tailored approach that responds to these challenges through institutional development, partnership with Indigenous authorities, and local capacity building for WSS services management in order to overcome the existing system that incentivizes physical interventions in easily accessible areas with limited social accompaniment. 

3 myths about social inclusion in water

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
The World Bank at World Water Week 2016

Starting this weekend, Stockholm will host the largest annual congregation of water aficionados, during World Water Week 2016.  It is an opportune moment to reflect on what social inclusion means for water, and on three stylized myths in the “mainstream” discourse, although there are also influential social movements that present alternative views.

Myth 1
Inclusion in water is about poverty or being “pro-poor”? Social inclusion may be about the poor but it needn’t necessarily be so.  

Where water and climate change meet

Water Communications's picture

This week, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, or COP21, will gather countries that want to take action for the climate. A central topic of these discussions will focus on the intersection of water and climate change.

Combating climate change is everyone’s business. Reducing emissions and investing in renewable energy, improving city planning and building design standards, developing more efficient transportation, and reducing deforestation (among others) all play key roles in mitigating the effects of climate change. At the same time, countries, and industries, will also need to adapt to changes in the climate as they unfold. Since climate change will significantly increase the variability of rainfall, different parts of the world will become more vulnerable to floods or droughts. 

“Water scarcity and variability pose significant risks to all economic activities, including food and energy production, manufacturing and infrastructure development,“ said Laura Tuck, World Bank Group Vice President for Sustainable Development during a recent press conference at COP21. “Poor water management can exacerbate the effects of climate change on economic growth, but if water is managed well it can go a long way to neutralizing the negative impacts.”

Better together: Toilets and nutrition

Claire Chase's picture
​Studies show children grow taller and perform better
on cognitive tests in communities where residents have
access to improved sanitation and do not defecate
in the open. Photo credit: World Bank

Microfinance for water and sanitation: How one small loan makes a huge difference

John Ikeda's picture
Photo Credit: Water.org via Flickr under Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

This blog originally appeared on the The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) Microfinance Blog. Housed at the World Bank, CGAP is a global partnership of 34 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion. The blog highlights a recent study which concludes that water and sanitation microfinance can be good for Microfinance Institutions, good for the development community, and -most importantly- good for borrowers and their families.

5 avantages potentiels de l'intégration des TIC dans vos projets d'eau et d'assainissement

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: English

Le Programme Eau et Assainissement (WSP) de la Banque mondiale vient de terminer une importante étude sur la façon de valoriser le potentiel des technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) pour 'améliorer les services d'eau et d'assainissement en Afrique. Selon un rapport du GSMA, en 2014, 52% de tous les déploiements d’outils de transfert d'argent via le téléphone mobile à l’échelle mondiale se trouvaient en Afrique subsaharienne et 82% des Africains avaient accès à une couverture GSM. En comparaison, seulement 63% avaient accès à l'eau potable et 32% à l'électricité. Cette adoption rapide de technologies-mobile en Afrique offre une occasion unique pour la région de faire face au manque criard de données et d'informations sur les infrastructures d'eau et d'assainissement existants et leur gestion actuelle - une barrière pour l'extension des services aux pauvres.

Innovative Finance in the Water and Sanitation Sector

Joel Kolker's picture

The World Bank at World Water Week 2015

As the global focus shifts to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and achieving universal access to water and sanitation, there will clearly be a need to mobilize private capital to help finance the necessary infrastructure. The Global Water Practice at the World Bank has been working with key public and private sector partners in over ten countries to mobilize domestic credit and address operating inefficiencies which negatively impact on the delivery of water and sanitation. To scale up (“billions to trillions”) it will be necessary to consider the incentives needed to attract and sustain such capital flows.

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