Making a Splash on World Water Day

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The United Nations seems to have a day for everything, from poetry (March 20) to families (May 15) to statistics (October 20). They even have a day for mountains (December 11). Most of these days come and go without much fuss or attention.

But World Water Day is different. IFC chose it to launch its new quarterly journal, Handshake, which explores how the private sector can help improve infrastructure in developing countries. The first issue, Tapped Out, focuses on water scarcity and how public-private partnerships (PPPs) can tackle the problem. It includes features on small-scale water supply in Africa, irrigation in Brazil and India, an interview with the chairman of Mozambique's public water company, and many other water-related issues.

The First Issue of Handshake, IFC's New Quarterly Journal on PPPs


If you don’t think this is important, try going without a drink or a shower for a few days. Or seeing how much of your household income would be gobbled up if you had to use bottled water to cook, clean and bathe. Unfortunately, a lot of people live without decent access to water every single day, and with greater consequences than just being a little smelly in the office.

I saw this first-hand in Mongolia, where nearly half the population in the capital lives in ger districts without running water. Residents have to buy water and haul it in carts to their homes, often in sub-zero temperatures, and pay much more for it than wealthier apartment-dwellers elsewhere in the city.

Their experience is far from unique. Globally, nearly half the population doesn’t have water piped to their homes, and over 3.5 million people die every year of water-related illnesses. And a lot of existing water infrastructure is in poor condition, meaning that an unbelievable amount water is wasted every single day.

I’m not sure there’s a United Nations day for all the other topics the journal will cover, like health care or climate change. But anyone with an interest in exploring how public-private partnerships can push forward infrastructure, health and education will find it valuable.

Even if there isn’t a United Nations designated PPP day. At least not yet.


David Lawrence

International Development Consultant

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