Water and sanitation for all

Water and sanitation are part of the basic needs every human being should have access to. Only between 1990 and 2004 1.2 billion people worldwide gained access to improved sanitation (Black, 2008). As of 2008 41% of the world population, including almost one billion children, lacked access to appropriate sanitation facilities (Black, 2008).

A total of 341 million Africans did not have access to drinking water as of 2006, up by 61 million from 280 million in 1990 (UN Water, 2008a). In nine countries of Africa less than half the population has access to improved drinking water sources (UN Water, 2008a).

Better water and sanitation are vital in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The impact of water and sanitation on education is crucial. Overall the number of annual deaths associated with dirt is two million, a majority of which is due to diarrhoeal disease. Diarrhoea kills 390,000 children under five in West and Central Africa, 262,000 in East and Southern Africa and 536,000 in South Asia (Black, 2008). Diarrhoeal disease could be virtually eliminated with the provision of clean water and sanitaiton.

2008 was the international year of sanitation. As a contribution a partnership of four institutions including the African Development Bank and the World Bank published a review of the sanitation and hygiene status in 32 African countries (AMCOW, 2008). The report raises the question of whether African countries would miss the Millenium Development Goal on water supply and sanitation. According to the report a total of US$ 26 billion is needed to achieve the national sanitation goals in Africa (AMCOW, 2008). The report identifies ten challenges that should be overcome to fulfill the MDGs for water supply and sanitation. The challenges are enumerated as follows (AMCOW, 2008):

The fact of the matter is that as of 2008 the only countries in Africa that were on track to fulfill the MDGs on water supply and sanitation were in North Africa. The whole of Subsaharan Africa was off track.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that improved water and sanitation could help reduce the global disease burden by 9 percentage points (Bartram et al, 2008). The diseases that are related to a lack of appropriate water supply and sanitation are diarrhoeal diseases (39% of the total), malnutrition (21%), malaria (14%), and drownings (6%). The WHO estimates that it would cost US$13 billion per year to meet the drinking water and sanitation target of the MDGs (Bartram et al, 2008). The benefit cost ratio ranges between a ratio of 4 and a ratio of 12.

Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort is author of the book The Monfort Plan