Key to tackling poverty is water and sanitation, says World Bank

Guangzhe Chen, Senior Director of the Water Global Practice, World Bank

Reaching the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of access to safely managed water and sanitation services by 2030 will require countries to spend US$150 billion per year, says a new World Bank report.

It suggests a drastic change is required in the way countries manage resources and provide key services, starting with better targeting to ensure they reach those most in need, and tackling inefficiencies to make sure public services are sustainable and effective.

Moreover, the report states that water, health, and nutrition interventions need to be coordinated to make substantive progress in the fight against childhood stunting and mortality. The World Bank says that while improving water and sanitation alone improves a child’s well being, the impacts on a child’s future are even greater when combined with health, and nutrition interventions.

“Millions are currently trapped in poverty by poor water supply and sanitation, which contributes to childhood stunting and debilitating diseases such as diarrhea,” said Guangzhe
Chen, Senior Director of the Water Global Practice, World Bank. “To give everyone an equal chance at reaching their full potential, more resources, targeted to areas of high vulnerability and low access, are needed to close the gaps and improve poor water and sanitation services.”

The report, Reducing Inequalities in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals provides a roadmap for closing the gap. It includes a comprehensive analysis of water and sanitation indicators spanning 18 countries around the world and, for the first time, pinpoints specific geographic regions within countries that have inadequate WASH services. It sheds light on major disparities in water supply and sanitation services between rural and urban, poor and non-poor areas.

The report highlights that, in many countries, services do not reach the poor because of poor implementation, not poor policy–and that children are suffering as a result.

“Today, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under five,” explained Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director in Nigeria. “Poor children also suffer from intestinal diseases, which together with under-nutrition and infections contribute to stunting. We are risking the futures of our children: their potential is being stymied by unequal or uneven access to the services they require to thrive.”