Despite COVID-19 setbacks, international institutions and service providers have stayed on course to deliver water, sanitation, and hygiene goals.
According to the UN, 88% of the world’s population (7 billion people) now have access to clean water in their homes and within a 15-minute walk.
Achieving SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation for all – will require global stakeholder collaboration and political commitment.
People devoted to financing water, sanitation and hygiene in developing nations worried for much of 2020. Utility customers stopped paying their water bills. Funders altered their priorities. Heads of state turned their attention to other virus-related emergencies.
But did COVID-19 affect funding enough to slow progress toward universal access to clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene – popularly known as WASH? And if it did, by how much?
The data did not look good. In December 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported that because of the pandemic, international investment in water, sanitation and hygiene fell 70% in the first three-quarters of 2020.
Yet, even as the official numbers seemed to point to a potential catastrophe, the actual effects of the pandemic on delivering water and sanitation to people who needed it were not nearly as dire.
Early indications suggest that small water providers coped through the pandemic, according to Safe Water Network, a New York-based nonprofit with programmes in India and Ghana.
“Based on anecdotal data and our experience, we see small water enterprises as a particularly resilient safe water solution during public health crises,” said Gillian Winkler, the group’s vice president for strategic partnerships.
In other words, customers received water. Water treatment plants operated. Managers of sanitation services in informal settlements performed their daily tasks of cleaning toilets and removing waste. Staffing shortages when the virus sickened workers were temporary.
Public-private cooperation is needed.
Over the last half-century, the WASH sector evolved into a galaxy of projects, programmes, departments, idea centres, utilities, service companies, research groups and consultancies devoted to one objective – delivering clean water, sanitation and hygiene to the developing world.
At the galaxy’s centre is the stellar cluster – development banks, philanthropies, investors and government treasuries – that finance the work. Since 1970, more than $400 billion has been spent on official development assistance, official development finance, government aid, loans and philanthropic grants for WASH in developing nations.
Even with such a considerable sum, the generally accepted narrative of WASH financing is this: it’s not enough. Capital spending for WASH would need to reach $114 billion annually to meet the UN goal of providing universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, according to a 2016 World Bank study.
That is considerably more than the roughly $20 billion invested annually in WASH in the five years before the pandemic, according to the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS).
In November 2020, the UN said over 700 children die every day from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene. Nearly 700 million people still practice open defecation, and nearly 400 million children attend schools with no sanitation facilities whatsoever.
“The COVID crisis amplified the existing access issues,” said Lesley Pories, manager of sector strategies at Water.org, a Kansas City-based nonprofit WASH financing group. “The most critical challenges, though, are systemic and have been forming over decades: population growth, rural to urban migration and inadequate financing models.”
But viewed from another perspective, $400 billion in aid, assistance, loans and grants produced three results that are scarcely recognized or celebrated in the WASH galaxy.
First, it generated sturdy funding and WASH delivery sector that prodded the world into embracing the consensus goal to provide every person with access to clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene.
Second, the $400 billion-plus investment generated an array of WASH delivery projects working worldwide and delivering measurable results. According to the UN, between 2000 and 2017, 2.4 billion people gained access to safe water supplies and some 2.1 billion to safe and improved sanitation.
Third, an inventive community of finance professionals developed a new promotional message about achieving universal WASH. Adequate financing is important, but it’s more essential to help WASH finance recipients become much more “creditworthy”; and open new paths for raising money and delivering it more quickly to WASH providers.
We must build on the momentum.
According to 2017 data from the UN, 88% of the world’s population, or nearly 7 billion people, can access clean water in their homes and within a 15-minute walk. Nearly 1.8 billion people gained access to basic water supplies from 2000 to 2017.
Another point is that the 2017 data clearly shows that developing nations across Asia, Latin America and North Africa are closing in on meeting universal access goals by 2030.
Taken together, the new trends suggest that space is steadily shrinking between those who do and those who don’t have ready access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. For half a century, the world treads a difficult path. It is now closing in on a momentous human achievement.
Source From: World Economic Forum