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Apr 19, 2012

Ministers Aim to Make Sanitation and Water for All a Reality

Some 60 ministers responsible for finance, sanitation and hygiene from over 30 developing countries will participate in the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) meeting on April 20 at the World Bank in Washington, DC.

Their aim is to agree on urgent action towards ensuring that access to sanitation and safe drinking water becomes a reality for the billions of people who still live without them.

The meeting, convened by Mr Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), comes against the backdrop of an announcement in March by UNICEF and the World Health Organization that the world had met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) overall target for access to safe drinking water in 2010, but that 783 million people are still missing out.

The UN report also said that the target for access to improved sanitation will not be met by 2015.

At current rates of progress, not until 2026 would 75 per cent of the global population have access and even then would leave a quarter of the world without improved sanitation.

The SWA Partnership notes that even though the drinking water MDG target has been met, the remaining 783 million people still without access are the hardest to reach, being mostly poor people living in rural areas or urban slums.

The SWA partnership says the picture for sanitation is particularly bleak. Of all the targets in the eight MDGs that relate to improved health, sanitation is the most off-track.

At current rates of progress it would take sub-Saharan Africa, for example, another 200 years to achieve the coverage for sanitation aimed at in the MDGs.

The group says there is a growing body of economic evidence that poor sanitation has a significant negative impact on the financial coffers of many developing countries.

A 2011 World Bank study, for example, shows that India alone loses US$ 53.8 billion annually due to poor sanitation and hygiene. The economic cost from poor sanitation can be up to 7% in some countries, including costs related to premature deaths as well as losses in industry, tourism and health-related productivity.

The Partnership emphasizes that the efforts of the governments, donors and agencies must address both water and sanitation with equal vigour, and should target funds for sanitation and water so that the poorest countries receive greater support, and their institutional and technical capacities are strengthened.

The Ministers and the SWA partners, who are to meet in Washington, are hoping that the 2012 meeting will build upon the success of the first High Level Meeting in 2010, which was a catalyst for increasing resources and efforts in water and sanitation at the national and international levels.

Since then, nine countries have confirmed that they are meeting their commitments of increased budget allocations, and seven donors have met or exceeded the targets they set for funding.

The April 20 SWA meeting will get commitments from individual governments, and the partnership as a whole, to target of funds for water and sanitation to where they are most needed, and ensure that national plans are developed to reach the un-served populations in each country.

Source: GNA