High-level Meeting offers hope on sanitation and water

April 27, 2010

At the first ever High-Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water held on Friday 23rd April in Washington DC, Ministers and policy makers from 30 countries agreed on a joint statement that included commitments to:

  • Work through the new Sanitation and Water for All partnership to increase political prioritisation, resource mobilisation and aid effectiveness.
  • Work together to improve targeting of resources to ensure more gets to low-income countries and the poorest communities.
  • Set up a new funding mechanism to better support the poorest countries with the weakest capacities to develop national plans.

In addition, some countries made additional individual pledges. Bangladesh committed to spending an extra $200m over the next 5 years, Senegal an extra $24m per year. Many others, including Ghana, Liberia and Ethiopia, committed to raising domestic budgets to meet regional commitments – for example African countries are jointly committed to spend 0.5% of GNI on sanitation by the eThekwini Declaration, which was signed in 2008.

Yakub Hossain, Convener of Freshwater Action Network Bangladesh said:

“We needed countries to get together and raise the bar of ambition, so this is an important first step in providing services that have the potential to prevent 2.2 million child deaths every year.”

Yet in contrast to the commitments made by a number of developing countries, there were few specific targets from donors to increase resources to the poorest countries, despite a strong appeal from African and Asian Water ministers.

Prof. Edward Kairu, Chairman of ANEW added: “People cannot drink promises, so the real test is whether today’s announcements will be translated into action on the ground. We need to put the meat on the bones of this agreement with clear plans and new money. Only then will we really begin to see progress in the form of fewer children dying, more girls in school, and communities able to work themselves out of poverty.”

With announcements on child and maternal health due at this June’s G8, and a major UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals in September, WaterAid’s Head of Policy, Henry Northover, said it was time to make access on sanitation and water a global priority: “The launch of the Sanitation and Water for All initiative is a chance to move away from worthy expressions of concern to action.  We need to see this renewed commitment flow through to services for the poorest of the poor.”

The UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS), produced by the WHO and UNICEF, shows that only 42% of aid given to water and sanitation actually goes where it is most needed – to low income countries. For example, between 2006 and 2008 Jordan received $500 in aid for every person without access to safe water, while Chad received just $3. Further, only 16% goes to ‘basic services’ – interventions serving the poorest people – up from 11% from five years ago.

The Report also showed that despite diarrhea being the second biggest killer of children under five, funding for water and sanitation – which could prevent 88% of these deaths – has declined as a share of overall aid (6.3% to 4.7%).

Source:  RESULTS UK