Lack of investment ‘leaves poorer people without safe water’

30 Aug 19

The world is failing to provide safe water for the planet’s poorest communities by not investing enough and not deploying subsidies equitably, according to two global institutions.

Separate reports released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank, have painted a damning picture of a world where the most vulnerable people are being left without suitable access to water.

The WHO surveyed 115 countries and territories finding that there was sufficient money or human resources being invested in water, sanitation and hygiene in fewer than 15% of cases.

The report, released yesterday, identified a funding gap of more than 60% in 19 countries.

Director-general of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom said: “Too many people lack access to reliable and safe drinking-water, toilets and hand-washing facilities, putting them at risk of deadly infections and threatening progress in public health.”

About half of the countries surveyed have now set targets of universal drinking water by 2030.

Dr Adhanom said: “Water and sanitation systems don’t just improve health and save lives, they are a critical part of building more stable, secure and prosperous societies.

“We call on all countries that lack essential water and sanitation infrastructure to allocate funds and human resources to build and maintain it.”

In many countries, government subsidies are used to pay for water and sanitation, totalling $320bn a year worldwide (excluding China and India).

The World Bank’s report, released on Wednesday, argues that well-designed, effectively implemented subsidies can be “powerful and progressive tools” in making public resources work for the poorest people in those countries.

But researchers found that in the 10 low and middle-income countries they surveyed, only 6% of subsidies reached the poorest 20% of the population, while the richest fifth captured 56%.

Subsidies often target networked water services, which are often unavailable in very poor neighbourhoods.

The World Bank’s global director for water Jennifer Sara said: “This leaves low-income families without the support they need and exacerbates existing inequalities.

“Access to affordable water and sanitation can prevent needless deaths and transform lives; healthier children become healthier adults who contribute more to the economy and better fulfil their potential.”

Both reports were released while the international water sector met in Stockholm for the annual World Water Week conference, where experts hope to deal with global crises in water and sanitation.

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