Abdul Nashiru is WaterAid’s Regional Advocacy Manager for West Africa. The opinions expressed are his own.
One year on from the launch of Sanitation and Water for All, the global initiative is proving successful in helping bring clean water and safe toilets to the world’s poorest people, as explained at Stockholm World Water Week.
The partnership, which has been driven by WaterAid, was applied earlier this year to bring key stakeholders together under a Joint Mission in Liberia, leading to the development of a compact to shape and accelerate the future development of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector in the country.
More than 70 percent of the money dedicated to improving access to water and sanitation in the developing world is currently spent in middle-income countries, meaning the poorest communities, particularly those in post-conflict and fragile areas, are continuously overlooked.
As a result, these countries are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty: the governments have limited aid, poor data collection, and lack adequate expertise and therefore cannot fully act on their water and sanitation commitments, while donors remain reluctant to invest in fragile states.
However, the potential for water and sanitation programmes to succeed is often higher in low-income post-conflict countries than elsewhere because of the strong desire for progress.
The Sanitation and Water for All initiative was established to build on such high level of political will and increase dialogue and collaboration between governments, donors and civil society organisations to thereby direct money and efforts to the areas most in need. It also encourages transparency, by requiring donors and governments to monitor the work and feed back on progress.
Potential for change in Liberia
The Liberia civil war continued for 14 years, killing around 250,000 people and crippling the infrastructure and basic services, such as water and sanitation.
As a post-conflict country, water and sanitation governance was weak and hampered by fragmented planning.
Despite these challenges, there are strong foundations to build on in Liberia as a result of high political engagement and the desire for success. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is committed to the Sanitation and Water for All initiative and to seeing the process through to completion. Added to this, there has been active participation from civil society organisations and a particular focus on unserved communities.
Through the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, the compact was produced, which heavily influenced the human development component of the second poverty reduction strategy. Water point mapping has been completed, a national sanitation and hygiene promotion committee is now functional, and a sector investment plan has been incorporated into existing strategic sector plans.
This success in developing effective planning systems with help from donors and other stakeholders will hopefully now help pave the way for similar processes in other countries and ensure a better targeting of development aid.