Co-author:Sophie Durrans, Research Uptake Officer at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
A child who is stunted early in life – who fails to grow as tall as expected for their age – often has reduced physical and mental development. Water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) influences a child's growth in multiple ways. Evidence across low and middle-income countries demonstrates that higher open defecation rates are associated with stunting and higher overall incidence of poverty.
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.
Over the last few years, the international community has been busy establishing new indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which officially replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the period 2015-2030. SDG #6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all, seeks to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, communicable diseases, and inequities that are directly related to lack of access to improved sources of drinking water (affecting 663 million people worldwide) and sanitation (which 2.4 billion people still lack). This new goal implies a commitment by countries to monitor and report on their progress, similarly to what was done for the MDGs, but with much more detail.
Under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), countries were requested to report the coverage of water and sanitation, distinguishing between “improved” and “unimproved” coverage. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), established specific indicators for each, using definitions that could be captured with information from standard household surveys, which typically rely on self-reported questions on access to services collected from a nationally representative sample of households.
Water covers 70% of Earth’s surface, but if you live in Sana’a, Sao Paolo, California, or the many other areas where drought or chronic water scarcity has affected daily life, you know that abundance can be relative.
This image from the US Geological Survey shows that only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is the accessible freshwater we need to live, grow food, sustain the environment, and power our cities and jobs.
Growing cities and populations and a changing climate are placing unprecedented pressures on water. According to the World Economic Forum, water crises are among the top risks to global economic growth. For at least 650 million people, even the water they are able to find is unsafe.
But this also offers an opportunity to provide safer water and better manage our water resources for a more resilient future.
This year, #worldwaterday focuses on the connection between water and jobs, and these connections primarily fall under two categories: productivity and sustainability.
The study found that globally current levels of financing are likely to cover the capital costs of achieving universal basic WASH by 2030. The global capital costs amount to $28.4 billion per year (range: $13.8 to $46.7 billion). However, despite this good news, the current allocations need to be redirected and there will need to be significantly greater spending on sanitation (accounting for 69% of the cost of basic universal WASH) and operations and maintenance, as well as in the most off-track countries which are mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
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.
Because of water’s multidimensional role in economic development and poverty reduction, addressing the constraints that women and girls face in accessing and managing water is essential for achieving impact.
Challenges of gender inequality in water include:
Women are disproportionately underrepresented in water sector decision making at many levels.
Women and girls are often charged with domestic water collection, disadvantaging other spheres of life, such as education.
Men benefit disproportionally from economic opportunities generated by the capital-intensive nature of water development and management.
Women and girls have specific sanitation needs, both for managing menstruation and for protection against gender-based violence.
Jaehyang So, Director, Trust Funds and Partnerships, World Bank, wrote a partner perspective article for The Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) global partnership in advance of the April 11, 2014 SWA High-Level Meeting. Read the article below, courtesy of SWA.
The first Joint Sector Review and launch of the national Sector Investment Plan (SIP) for the Liberian water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector will take place on February 5-7. With improved sector coordination and a new, systematic plan to achieve national objectives, Liberia is well-positioned to successfully tackle its WASH challenges – if sufficient funding is found.