UN-Water: In order to meet development targets, there must be a profound increase in water and sanitation investment

Photo credit: UN-Water

A new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) published for UN-water – the inter-agency coordination mechanism for the United Nations (UN) that covers all issues related to freshwater and sanitation – has found that nations around the world are not spending money fast enough to meet water and sanitation goals under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Today, almost two billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio,” Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said. “Contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause more than 500,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.”

The report emphasises on the reality that nations will be unable to meet global aspirations of universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation unless crucial steps are taken to utilise financial resources more efficiently and effectively, and efforts to pinpoint new sources of funding are increased.

According to the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) report for 2017, countries around the world have brought up budgets for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) at the average of 4.9 per cent per year for the past three years. However, of the countries, 80 per cent reported that the increased spending for WASH was not enough to meet nationally-defined goals.

Current national coverage targets in numerous developing countries are rooted in realising access to basic infrastructure, though it may not offer constantly reliable and safe services. Investments in these nations do not take some of the more demanding SDG into account, such as those that focus on universal access to safely managed water and sanitation services by 2030.

Global SDG targets can still be met, though the World Bank has estimated that investments in infrastructure would have to triple from the current amount to US$114 billion each year – and this figure does not count in operating and maintenance costs.

While this gap in funding is great, 147 nations have previously proven their ability to assemble the needed resources to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) of halving the population of people who were without an improved source of water, and of the 147, 95 met the accompanying target for sanitation. However, the more challenging SDGs will need nations to coordinate collectively and come up with innovative ideas to organise the funding that could come from a number of sources: Donations, taxes, and tariffs, to name a few.

“This is a challenge we have the ability to solve,” Guy Ryder, Chair of UN-Water and Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, said. “Increased investments in water and sanitation can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind.”


Sources: UN-Water, World Health Organisation