Women Economists Join Civil Society Call to United States Policy Makers to End the Global Sanitation Crisis

Nov 18, 2011, 09:00 ET from WaterAid

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report Off-track, off-target: Why investment in water, sanitation and hygiene is not reaching those who need it most is being published by the international non-profit organization WaterAid for World Toilet Day on November 19.  Accompanied by a letter from 34 female economists from around the world expressing support for safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as a sound investment—for every $1 invested in $8 is returned in saved health care costs and increased economic productivity—the report shows that there are more people in the world today lacking adequate sanitation services than there were in 1990.  Unless urgent action is taken by national and donor governments, nearly all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and many in South Asia will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) pledge they made to halve the proportion of people without sanitation by 2015.  Globally, around 2.6 billion people currently lack access to safe sanitation.

Based on WaterAid projections, it will be 2029 before Bangladesh meets its target on sanitation, while Nepal will not reach it until 2030 and India not until 2047. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa will not reach the sanitation target for another 200 years. All of this has massive consequences for child mortality: 4,000 children die worldwide every day from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

WaterAid calls on governments to better target water and sanitation resources and services to the people and countries that need them most, an approach required by U.S. law. 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; while poor people in South Asia are 13 times less likely to have access to sanitation than the rich.

The shortfall in water and sanitation services costs Sub-Saharan African countries around 5% of GDP each year (U.S. $47.7 billion in 2009), more than is provided in development aid to the entire continent (U.S. $47.6 billion in 2009).  In India alone, the shortfall in water and sanitation services cost the economy around 6.4% of GDP, the equivalent of U.S. $53.8 billion in 2006 according to the World Bank.

Dr. David Winder, Chief Executive of WaterAid in America, said:

"The United States is a global leader in international development and global health, including water, sanitation and hygiene. These programs not only save lives, but improve national and global economies and increase the well-being of us all. It is critical that USAID continue to scale up its water, sanitation and hygiene programs, and at the same time Congress must ensure that foreign aid is not sacrificed to a tight fiscal climate. We must protect our current investments in developing countries' welfare; and ensure that the programs the U.S. supports are efficient, integrated, equitable, and inclusive, targeted well to those who will benefit most. With its impact, efficiency and leveraging power, water and sanitation are a critical starting point."

The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (S. 641), sponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Corker (R-TN) (forthcoming in the House, led by Congressman Blumenauer, D-OR), builds upon a 2005 law defining water, sanitation and hygiene as a U.S. foreign policy priority. The bill would use existing funds to improve the integration, equitability, and efficacy of current investments. WaterAid calls on Congress to prioritize this effort to improve ongoing international aid and address the global water and sanitation crisis.

WaterAid's vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organization works in 27 countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific region and Central America to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world's poorest communities.  Over the past 30 years, WaterAid has reached 15.9 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 11 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit www.wateraidamerica.org.

Off-track, off-target report available here
Off-track, off-target report cover note available here

Video news release available here
Picture light-box and case studies available here
The open letter from women economists can be found here