United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
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  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
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UNCSD Outcome Document: Input by the United Nations Children?s Fund (UNICEF)

SCALING UPWATER AND SANITATION TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

This note briefly reviews progress and implementation gaps in meeting global water and sanitation goals and provides considerations for strengthening the sustainable development agenda, including importantly on the equity dimension, through enhanced action in this sector. While overall aid commitments have risen, the sanitation and drinking water share of development aid has decreased relative to other sectors over the period 1998-2008. There are also continued serious disparities across geographic, wealth, and gender boundaries in terms of access to safe water and adequate sanitation; there are also serious challenges, especially in the face of demographic and climatic changes, to the sustainability of provisioning systems, including technological and institutional dimensions and associated monitoring issues. UNICEF hence strongly urges the inclusion, in the UNCSD Outcome Document, of the issue of universal and sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation as a core objective of a transition to a Green Economy and in the framework of Sustainable Development Goals.

Some of the key issues to be addressed towards the establishment of universal and sustainable access to water and sanitation include:

? The scale-up of sanitation in rural areas focusing on sustainable community-led approaches (total sanitation).

? The issue of water quality, including meaningful and cost-effective measurement on a large scale. Within countries, regulatory frameworks will need to be developed, along with the capacity to implement and appraise Water Safety Plans as a standard feature of ensuring sustainable access to safe drinking-water.

? Linkages between climate change and sustainable water and sanitation development will need to be further examined to assist countries in integrating adaptation strategies and policies into sector plans and strategies.

? Development aid for drinking-water and sanitation will need to target poor countries as currently low-income countries receive only 42% of the total aid for the sector.

1. IMPLEMENTATION GAPS -- THE UNFINISHED AGENDA: WATER AND SANITATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Water and sanitation have a positive impact on the attainment of all current MDGs, including the empowerment of women. In fact, no single intervention is more likely to have a significant impact on global poverty than the provision of safe water. Diarrhoea, which is caused mainly by poor water, sanitation and hygiene, is still the second largest single cause of under five mortality globally, and the largest cause in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Young Child Survival and Development (YCSD) is the first right of the child. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is a central component of YCSD programming, due to the impact of WASH interventions on child survival and development. Indeed, the correlation between water supply and under-five mortality rate is stronger than for any other YCSD indicator. Nearly nine million children under five years of age die each year and diarrhoea is second only to pneumonia as the cause of these deaths. Adequate sanitation, handwashing with soap, and household water treatment, have respective impacts on diarrhoeal reduction of 36%, 48% and 47%.

The contribution of WASH in reducing child mortality, however, goes well beyond its direct contribution to reducing diarrhoeal disease. Safe water, sanitation and handwashing also reduce major killers of children such as malnutrition and pneumonia. Water and sanitation are also needed in health facilities to ensure effective healthcare services. Worldwide there are over 2.6 billion people that do not use improved sanitation facilitiesand 884 million people without an improved drinking-water source ? almost half of whom are children.

According to The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) the world is not on track to meet the sanitation component of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target 7c to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation. If the trend remains as currently projected by 2015 there will be 2.7 billion people without access to basic sanitation.

According to the JMP, the world is on track to meet the drinking water component of target 7c. However, it is predicted that 672 million people will lack access to improved drinking-water sources in 2015, and Sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to meet the target.Given that the JMP prediction is based on measurement of use of an improved drinking-water source (which does not adequately address water safety and sustainability), the actual number of people without sustainable access to safe water is much higher than JMP estimates and in reality the world is almost certainly not on track to meet the MDG target.

To compound this situation, water resources and drinking-water supplies in particular, are under increasing pressure from the effects of climate change, population growth, urbanization, and competing uses of water such as agriculture and industry. It is the poorest communities that are disproportionately affected by these external drivers of change.

2. WATER, SANITATION AND EQUITY

Equitable development means universal access to both safe drinking-water and acceptable sanitation, i.e.all people should have access to affordable water of sufficient quantity and quality and access to sanitation facilities that ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. In addressing equity in water supply and sanitation it is necessary to analyse disparities across equity dimensions, such as geographical location, socio-economic status and gender. Other dimensions such as ethnicity and disability can also be considered.

Geographical disparities

Of the 2.6 billion people who do not use improved sanitation 72% of them live in Asia and 22% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, of the 884 million people who do not use improved sources of drinking water, 51% of them live in Asia and 37% live in Sub-Saharan Africa. 84% of the global population without an improved drinking-water source live in rural areas. Indeed, access to safe drinking-water is lower in rural areas than in urban areas in all developing countries.Also, seven out of 10 people without improved sanitation live in rural areas. There is a critical need, therefore, to prioritise rural water and sanitation provision, especially in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Socio-economic disparities

The gap between the richest and poorest in the use of drinking-water sources and access to sanitation differs significantly by region and country. However, in all developing regions access to improved drinking-water and sanitation increases with wealth. Access to piped water on premises is much higher among the richest quintiles, and the poorest 20% is around 16 times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest quintile in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Perhaps the greatest disparity between the rich and the poor is in the amount paid for water. The urban poor pay up to 50 times more for a litre of water than their richer neighbours, since they often have to buy their water from private vendors.

Gender disparities

Women and girls bear the brunt of the burden of fetching water, and of caring for children sickened by diarrhoea and other water related diseases. This reinforces existing gender inequalities within households and communities while creating barriers for women in the pursuit of economic independence, education and in the participation in the development of their communities.
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