Former Australian PM Kevin Rudd, Ethiopian government, UNICEF lead talks on global access to water, sanitation and hygiene

Government ministers and representatives of development agencies, civil society, private sector and NGOs are gathered in Addis to agree on a way to meet targets on universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene as called for in the new Sustainable Development Goals.

The two-day high-level meeting, under the aegis of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, and convened by UNICEF, is hosted by the Government of Ethiopia.

Attendees will pin down what the sanitation, water and hygiene-related SDG targets mean for the sector and agree on a follow-up and review system. They will identify their different roles and responsibilities in achieving these targets, aiming at clear action plans, strategies and milestones, and agree on how to work with related sectors such as health and nutrition.

“I am excited to see so many ministers and senior representatives from governments in this room, but equally encouraged to see them joined by partners from the private sector, civil society, the UN system and research and learning institutions,” said the Hon. Kevin Rudd, newly appointed Chair of SWA and former Prime Minister of Australia, at the opening of the meeting. “The Sustainable Development Goals demand both greater coordination and new modalities of finance. We need more money, and smarter ways to use the money we have.”

His Excellency Dr. Mulatu Teshome, President of Ethiopia said: “Ethiopia stands ready to share its experiences on the ONEWASH national programme through field visits to our urban WASH programmes as well as in meeting interactions. Ethiopia seeks to identify best practices that we can learn from other members of the SWA partnership. As one of the early members of Sanitation and Water for All we are happy to see the progress that the partnership is making and indeed the opportunities it provides for collaboration especially around the newly adopted SDGs.”

According to the latest estimates, 32 per cent of the world’s population – 2.4 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and 663 million people still do not have access to improved drinking water sources. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by lack of access to clean water and sanitation, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kill 800 children under 5 years old every day.

“Safe, sustainable water, and equitable, adequate sanitation and hygiene underpin all the progress we hope to make – and have to make – for children in the next 15 years,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “If we don’t make progress on WASH, we will not reach the SDGs – and millions of children will not realize their right to grow up healthy and strong. So we need to invest more, better integrate our efforts across sectors, and innovate to find new ways of reaching every child, every family, and every community.”

The conveners stressed the importance of achieving universal access in all countries. In addition to health gains from safe water, better sanitation contributes to economic development, delivering an estimated US$5.5 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested, through increased productivity and reduced healthcare costs.