A lack of progress in improving global access to water, sanitation and hygiene is inhibiting progress in economic and human development – particularly in child health, nutrition and education – a report launched on Thursday by international charity WaterAid, showed.
The report, launched by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a United Nations (UN) event on water in the Hague, in the Netherlands, detailed a vision for enabling the large-scale availability of safe water and sanitation and reviewed the progress made, to date, in tackling water and sanitation poverty.
Currently, 334-million people, or 39% of the sub-Saharan Africa population, lacked access to clean drinking water, while under 600-million, or 70%, lacked access to sanitation.
In addition, the Institute of Health Metrics estimated that around 550 000 people died of diarrhoea-related diseases every year in sub-Saharan Africa, 88% of which the World Health Organisation (WHO) attributed to a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene.
To counter this humanitarian crisis, WaterAid called on international leaders to recognise the need for a framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 which accurately reflected the contribution of water, sanitation and hygiene to other areas of poverty reduction, including health, education, gender equality, economic growth and sustainability.
It further called for the UN to set a new global target to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.
Sirleaf said that addressing the global water and sanitation crisis was not about charity, but opportunity, and referenced WHO statistics that indicated that every $1 invested in water and sanitation produced an average of $4 in increased productivity.
“This enables sustainable and equitable economic growth. In short, it will not be possible to make progress in eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and securing sustainable economic development in the future without improving access,” she cautioned.
WHO data demonstrated that Africa could potentially gain $33-billion a year should full access to water and sanitation be enabled.
Of this, $4.5-billion would come from reduced healthcare costs, $7.2-billion could be gained from reduced mortality, $2-billion from less time taken off work, and $19.5-billion in general time saved.
“Nothing could better demonstrate that our continent has truly begun to realise its potential and is coming true on its promise of progress and development, than achieving the fundamental goal of every African having safe drinking water,” said WaterAid Pan-Africa programme manager Nelson Gomonda, in support of the 2030 eradication objective.
“With more than 1 000 African children under the age of five dying every day from diseases brought about from a lack of water and sanitation, Africans will not accept failure. We have to reach this target.”