The World Health Organisation (WHO) has decried the high level of inaccessibility to drinking water and sanitation in poorest countries of the world, while weak government systems and funding gaps have been identified as culprits.
The apex health institution, has also called on governments of countries across the globe to urgently scale up their investment in strong drinking-water and sanitation systems, in order to prevent a disaster in the nearest future.
In a statement released by the WHO on Wednesday, it was disclosed that international stakeholders converged in Stockholm for its annual conference during the World Water Week, celebrated on 25-30 August 2019.
Part of the issues discussed at the conference was the UN-Water Global Assessment and Analysis of Sanitation and Drinking-Water 2019 (known as the GLAAS report), which surveyed 115 countries and territories, representing 4.5 billion people.
The survey showed that, in an overwhelming majority of countries, the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene policies and plans is constrained by inadequate human and financial resources. Nineteen countries and one territory reported a funding gap of more than 60 percent between identified needs and available funding. While Less than 15 percent of countries have the financial or human resources needed to implement their plans.
Speaking on the development, WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “Too many people lack access to reliable and safe drinking-water, toilets and hand-washing facilities, putting them at risk of deadly infections and threatening progress in public health.
He continued: “Water and sanitation systems don’t just improve health and save lives, they are a critical part of building more stable, secure and prosperous societies. We call on all countries that lack essential water and sanitation infrastructure to allocate funds and human resources to build and maintain it”.
Also justifying the essential role safe and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene services, play in human existence, the Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Mr Gilbert F Houngbo, said to have a healthier and stable society, these factors must be handled as top priority.
“While we need to ensure that there is sufficient funding to tackle these critical challenges, it is equally important to continue reinforcing national delivery systems”, he stressed.
While it was observed that funding gaps and weak systems are holding many countries back, the report also found that countries have begun to take positive steps towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation.
For Mr David Molefha, principal water engineer at the Ministry of Land Management Water and Sanitation Services in Botswana, Sustainable Development Goals were actually there motivation to take concrete actions at the national level to increase access to sanitation. “We have developed a sanitation roadmap and are working to eliminate open defecation. With these actions, we are working to improve peoples’ lives”, he noted.
The statement revealed that about half of the countries surveyed have now set drinking-water targets that aim for universal coverage at levels higher than basic services by 2030.