Weak systems and funding gaps jeopardize drinking-water and sanitation in the world’s poorest countries

World Health Organization

 STOCKHOLM, 29 August 2019  – The World Health Organization (WHO) and UN-Water today sounded the alarm for an urgent increase in investment in strong drinking-water and sanitation systems. 

 The call came as the
international water sector meets in Stockholm for its annual conference during World
Water Week
(25-30 August 2019). It is triggered by a new report published
by WHO on behalf of UN-Water that reveals that weak government systems and a
lack of human resources and funds are jeopardizing the delivery of water and
sanitation services in the world’s poorest countries – and undermining efforts
to ensure health for all.

 “Too many people lack
access to reliable and safe drinking-water, toilets and handwashing facilities,
putting them at risk of deadly infections and threatening progress in public
health,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “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.”

 The UN-Water
Global Assessment and Analysis of Sanitation and Drinking-Water 2019
(known
as the GLAAS report) surveyed 115 countries and territories,
representing 4.5 billion people. It showed that, in an overwhelming majority of
countries, the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene policies and
plans is constrained by inadequate human and financial resources. Nineteen
countries and one territory reported a funding gap of more than 60% between
identified needs and available funding. Less than 15% of countries have the
financial or human resources needed to implement their plans.

 “If we are to create
a healthier, more equitable and stable society, then strengthening the systems
to reach those currently living without safe and affordable water, sanitation
and hygiene services must be a top priority,” says Mr Gilbert F Houngbo, Chair
of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural
Development. “While we need to ensure that there is sufficient funding to
tackle these critical challenges, it is equally important to continue
reinforcing national delivery systems.”

 While funding gaps
and weak systems are holding many countries back, the report also found that
countries have begun to take positive steps towards achieving Sustainable
Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation.

 “The Sustainable
Development Goals have inspired us to take concrete actions at the national
level to increase access to sanitation,” says Mr David Molefha, Principal Water
Engineer at the Ministry of Land Management Water and Sanitation Services in
Botswana. “We have developed a sanitation roadmap and are working to eliminate
open defecation. With these actions, we are working to improve peoples’ lives.”

 About half of the
countries surveyed have now set drinking-water targets that aim for universal
coverage at levels higher than basic services by 2030, for example by
addressing water quality and increasing access to water on premises. In
addition, specifically targeting open defecation will have a dramatic impact on
public and environmental health.

 As the international authority on public health and water, sanitation and hygiene, WHO gathers scientific evidence, sets and monitors standards, and promotes best policies and practices for ensuring safe, reliable water, sanitation and hygiene for all people.

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