DEATHS FROM LACK OF SANITATION IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD ARE AN INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL
Commons International Development Select Committee Report
Sanitation and water sit at the heart of international development. Millennium Development Goal 7, seeking to halve the number of people without access to water and basic sanitation by 2015, is integral to the achievement of all the other Goals. Proper sanitation and water provision vastly reduces global disease and brings children, especially girls, into school; women are released from the wretched daily burden of fetching water; and the supply of food increases with adequate irrigation.
Yet current prospects for improvements in water and sanitation provision are bleak, according to today's report from the International Development Committee. Without concerted global action, the target seeking to halve the number of people without access to water by 2015 will be missed in Africa and on current trends the sanitation target will not be met until 2076. Failure to meet these targets will compromise the likely achievement of all eight Millennium Development Goals.
Sanitation is currently neglected within DFID and this needs urgent attention. Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"Almost one in two people in the developing world lacks access to sanitation: this is a hidden international scandal that is killing millions of children every year. DFID must reconfigure its staff and structures to enable it to step up as a global champion for sanitation."
Climate change, population and economic growth, and global urbanisation will increasingly constrain the availability of water resources. Malcolm Bruce said:
"The possibility of conflicts over water become more likely as resources become scarcer. But the management of water resources remains dangerously weak: in Africa only 3% of renewable water resources are managed compared to 80% in the USA. We believe it is vital that DFID does more to help developing countries both to manage their water resources efficiently and to adapt to the likely effects of climate change."
A key challenge is finding sanitation and water technologies that are appropriate to the local environment and which can be easily maintained by local people, rather than simply using standard western solutions. The Committee saw some good local schemes during its visit to Ethiopia but there is a further challenge in replicating these throughout the developing world at the scale required to make real progress.
DFID has refocused on sanitation and water after taking its "eye off the ball" in recent years. It has doubled its aid to Africa for this purpose and will double it again to £200 million a year by 2010-11. But the Committee's report highlights that, with an expanding budget on the one hand and a decreasing staff headcount on the other, DFID faces a real challenge in spending increasing funds on two very complex sectors without compromising the quality of its aid. Low capacity amongst professionals and governments to develop and maintain water systems and help people understand the health risks of poor sanitation are a major constraint that DFID must address if its investments are to be cost-efficient.
The Department has recognised that money alone will not provide toilets and taps and has proposed a Global Action Plan which seeks to galvanise international political will, strengthen capacity and help build the structures to target and deliver aid more effectively. The Committee believes it is imperative that DFID secures urgent international agreement to this Plan if the necessary rapid progress on water and sanitation provision is to be achieved.
The membership of the Committee is as follows: Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman, Lib Dem), John Battle MP (Lab), Hugh Bayley MP (Lab), John Bercow MP (Con), Richard Burden MP (Lab), Quentin Davies MP (Con), James Duddridge MP (Con), Ann McKechin MP (Lab), Joan Ruddock MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh MP (Lab), Sir Robert Smith MP (Lib Dem).
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Committee Contact: Chloe Challender, 020 7219 1522,
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