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UN-HABITAT laments low access to WASH in developing countries as WSP outlines the way forward

The World Water Week  gets underway in Stockholm, Sweden with the UN-HABITAT lamenting that Urban residents in developing countries including Nigeria are still struggling without adequate water and sanitation provision; even as a new report by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) at the World Bank, stated that African Governments need to accept primary responsibility and take a leadership  role in safe water and sanitation service delivery to be able to provide access to  the millions of people without access.

“Providing basic facilities, including water and sanitation, but also transport and housing, in increasingly condensed urban areas will be one of the major challenges facing the world in the coming years,” says the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Executive Director, Dr Joan Clos in Stokholm.  “Planning is the key to a sustainable urban future and service provision must be part of a wider national urban planning policy.”

Countries that are urbanizing quickly are already struggling to keep up with the demands of their residents many of whom already live in overcrowded areas.  In some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, as many as half of the urban population has no access to clean water and up to 60% do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.

According to UN-HABITAT’s “and Climate Change: the Global Report on Human Settlements”, it is estimated that by 2050, there could be as many as 200 million environmental refugees worldwide, many of whom will be forced from their homes by rising sea levels and increased frequency of flooding or drought.

The Water and Sanitation Program (WSP)e report, Pathways to Progress: Transitioning to Country-Led Service Delivery Pathways to Meet Africa’s Water Supply and Sanitation Targets, however, says economic growth, debt relief, and increasing political stability have opened up new opportunities for many African countries to take charge of their water supply and sanitation sectors and to develop sustainable service delivery pathways.

“Political stability has heavily influenced progress in improving access to water and sanitation,” said the report’s author and Senior Financial Specialist Dominick de Waal.  “Stable countries have outperformed the fragile ones by making greater increases in water supply coverage and in reducing open defecation in rural areas more markedly. They have also been more successful in keeping coverage levels up with population growth in urban water supply, and achieving more equitable access to water supply and sanitation services.”

The frontrunners have robust ‘service delivery pathways’ that use country systems and institutions to translate funding (donor and domestic) into actual higher numbers of people with access to services, the report says.

The report – a collection of 32 country status overview reports and a regional synthesis report – found that in these countries access to water is up by 13 percentage points since 1990 to 58% of the population in the 32 countries studied, with sanitation up by 11 percentage points to 36% of the population.

Reaching national goals for these 32 nations will require 42 million people per year to gain access to safe water, and 61 million people to access sanitation.

The report notes that accelerating progress across the countries analyzed requires increasing current funding levels by at least $6 billion a year by raising both domestic and donor financing flows to the sector.

The opportunity to accelerate progress, the report says, lies in completing the transition to country-led service delivery that:

• draws on all available capacity – civil society, private, public and consumers – to implement and sustain services; and

• harmonizes and aligns aid flows with domestic and user finance, routed through country systems and institutions.

“Countries in Africa are at different stages of being able to deliver progress towards the 2015 water and sanitation goals for improved water and sanitation access,” said World Bank Director for Transport, Water, and Information & Communication Technologies Jose Luis Irigoyen.  “Within countries, the sub-sectors (rural water, urban water, rural sanitation, urban sanitation) are at different stages of evolution, making it a challenge to target the right form of development assistance to the right place. This report provides an innovative look at the bottlenecks in sub sector service delivery pathways within countries and offers recommendations on how to fill that gap.”

The report offers action steps to closing the gap.  Water-related ministries can put in place and strengthen country-led, nationwide service delivery and use appropriate analyses and studies as evidence in advocating for needed financing.

Development partners can respond to needs and reward efforts by tailoring technical assistance and aid modalities to the various stages of development outlined in the report.

Ministries of finance can incrementally increase the sector’s share of the domestic budget to 5% of domestic revenue and collaborate with water and sanitation ministries to link sector processes with coregovernment systems like budget and expenditure management.

Finally the African Ministers Council on Water can advocate for enhanced external support for water supply and sanitation and foster regional learning among peers.

The report was commissioned by the African Ministers’ Council on Water.  Development was led by WSP in collaboration with the African Development Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.  The report was prepared in consultation with the governments of the countries studied and other stakeholders.

The theme of this year’s World Water Week,the 21st, “Challenges of water provision in an urbanizing world”, reflects recognition of the weight of the challenge.

 

 

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