It is a tragedy that 4,000 children still die every day because they do not have clean drinking water or a toilet. These are basic services that most of us could not imagine living without, but today 884 million people don’t have safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion don’t have adequate sanitation.
Water and sanitation are not only essential for health but also underpin virtually all other development efforts. They are critical drivers of economic growth and are therefore essential for effective and sustainable poverty reduction. WaterAid believes that international aid has an important contribution to make towards progress in those countries with the greatest water and sanitation needs. That’s why our new report, ‘Off-track, off target’, calls on donor countries to double global aid flows to water, sanitation and hygiene, by prioritising an additional US$10 billion per year to get the sanitation and water Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) back on track.
This report highlights that there are more people in the world today without adequate sanitation services than in 1990. Unless urgent action is taken, nearly all governments in Sub-Saharan Africa and many in South Asia will fail to meet the MDG pledge they made to halve the proportion of people without sanitation by 2015. At current rates of progress the 2015 target will be missed by a staggering one billion people.
The lack of sanitation and water has profound impacts on poor people’s health, welfare and productivity: diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children in Africa; fewer children go to school when clean water and toilets are not available which damages their long-term earning potential, and women have less time to engage in economic activity due to having to collect water and time spent sick from diarrhoeal diseases.
This lack of safe water and sanitation costs Sub-Saharan Africa around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, though loss of working days, school days and the health costs. That is more money lost than the entire continent received in aid in 2009. That’s why investing in these basic services is such good value for money – for every £1 invested, around £8 is returned in increased productivity.
It is vital that the sanitation and water MDGs get back on track. To do this, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa need to spend on average at least 3.5% of GDP on sanitation and water, and countries in South Asia need to spend on average at least 1% of GDP on sanitation. Governments must also focus on reducing the gap in access between rich and poor, which can be achieved through better targeting of water and sanitation resources and services to those most in need.
The Sanitation and Water for All partnership is a key catalyst for change. The high level meeting in 2012 will bring together ministers of water and finance from developing countries, and help them formulate credible and costed plans for extending water and sanitation services. Money can then flow to countries with the plans in place to spend it well and in a targeted manner
Clean water and sanitation are essential foundations for human development and economic growth. Our ‘Off-track, off-target’ report launches our Water Works campaign urging governments across the world to do more to tackle the water and sanitation crisis. It aims to show world leaders that taps and toilets are simple, effective and affordable, and that investing in these basic human needs is an urgent priority. We must act together now to end the water and sanitation crisis and help developing countries prosper.