Abdulkarim Ssengendo
November 18, 2011

A new report Off-track, off-target, released today by the international charity WaterAid (http://www.wateraid.org), shows that there are more people in the world today lacking adequate sanitation services than in 1990.

Unless urgent action is taken, nearly all governments in Sub-Saharan African will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) pledge they made to halve the proportion of people without sanitation by 2015.

A pitlatrine at Kitojo Primary school in Mbarara district Uganda.

On the current trajectory, it will take over two centuries for Sub-Saharan Africa to meet its sanitation MDG target. What is more, only 20 countries in the region are on track to meet the water MDG target by 2015. All of this has massive consequences for child mortality in Africa.

Released a day before World Toilet Day, the report states that to get the sanitation and water MDGs back on track, countries in sub-Saharan Africa need to spend at least 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on these services.

The report also calls on donor countries to double global aid flows to water, sanitation and hygiene by prioritizing an additional US$10 billion per year.

The report also identifies that it is Africa’s poorest people who are being left behind; poor people in Africa are five times less likely to have access to adequate sanitation and over 15 times more likely to practise open defecation than Africa’s rich.

According to WaterAid, governments should tackle this inequity through better targeting of water and sanitation resources and services to the poor.

The WaterAid report highlights that the shortfall in water and sanitation services costs Sub-Saharan African countries around 5% of GDP each year ($47.7 billion in 2009), more than is provided in development aid to the entire continent ($47.6 billion in 2009).

In a coordinated move, an international group of 34 female economists have also written an open letter to the leaders of eleven donor and developing country governments, to draw attention to the international water and sanitation crisis. In it they state:
“On the day you read this letter, 4,000 more children under five will die due to diseases brought about through unsafe water and poor sanitation. This equates to more child deaths than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, making it the biggest child killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Every $1 invested in water and sanitation generates on average an $8 return; making it the deal that will deliver for billions of the poorest people across the globe.”

Barbara Frost, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, said:
“Governments in both donor and developing countries have it in their power to save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives every year by increasing what they spend on water and sanitation. Investments in these basic services are engines of economic growth and prosperity in developing countries, but unless we grasp this opportunity we will be failing the millions of poor people whose health, livelihoods and opportunities suffer because they lack these essential services.”

The Off-track, off-target report is being published on the day WaterAid launches the Water Works campaign to urge governments across the world to do more to tackle the water and sanitation crisis. The campaign aims to show world leaders that taps and toilets are simple, effective and affordable, and that investing in these basic human needs is an urgent priority.

On World Toilet Day WaterAid will also join other members of the End Water Poverty campaign in 50 coordinated ‘Crisis Talk’ events in over 20 countries where local groups will be meeting with politicians to discuss the water and sanitation crisis.

In Tanzania, Crisis Talk events are being organised to coincide with the local government budgeting cycle; in the UK, WaterAid’s local supporter groups are meeting with their Members of Parliament; in Bangladesh regional events will be held where the public affected by poor water and sanitation provision will hold members of parliament to account.

Every day 2,000 children die due to diarrhoea brought about by a lack of safe water and inadequate sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the biggest cause of deaths of children under the age of five in the region. Four out of ten people don’t have access to safe water, while seven out of ten people don’t have access to adequate sanitation.

Water Journalists Africa, established in 2011 as a not-for-profit media organization, boasts a membership of journalists hailing from 50 African countries, dedicated to reporting on water, climate change,...

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