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Last Updated:[22-04-2010 08:59:40 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

UN Report Warns Neglect of Water and Sanitation to Nullify Progress

tradenews According to a UN study on water and sanitation, the economic growth of every country is directly linked to its progress made in providing potable water and sanitation facilities. It says there is strong evidence that achieving the water and sanitation target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would lower healthcare costs, increase school attendance and encourage productivity.

Maria Neira, UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of public health and environment said that “Neglecting sanitation and drinking water is a strike against progress, and without it, communities and countries will lose the battle against poverty and ill-health.” She told this at the launch of the UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report in Washington.

The report has highlighted that with over 2.6bn people living without access to improved sanitation facilities and nearly 900mn people not receiving drinking water, the progress made in this sphere would be able to fulfil only half of MDG target by 2015. Some sources estimate that with the current pace, it may take couple of centuries to achieve the goal as the world population will grow disproportionate to the achievements made so far at the water and sanitation front.

It is apparent from the report that overall development aid for water and sanitation has fallen from 8 percent in 1997 to just 5 percent in 2008 - less than commitments for health, education, transport, energy and agriculture. Surprisingly, the study is able to find that water and sanitation played a far more important role in improving productivity and welfare of communities as people could allocate more time for productive labour while keeping themselves in good health. It stressed that improved access to sanitation and water produces economic benefits that range from $3 to $34 per dollar invested, increasing a country’s GDP by an estimated two to seven percent.

“Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and the lack of hygiene claim the lives of estimated 2.2mn children under the age of five every year. Of these deaths, 1.5mn are due to diarrhoea, the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease,” said Dr. Neira. Similarly, Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF Chief of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) opined it was imperative to act now to provide potable water and proper sanitation before it got into epidemic proportions.

The findings of the report will be presented at the first annual High Level Meeting of Sanitation and Water for All, which will be hosted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Washington on Friday. The meeting will provide a platform for representatives of developing and donor countries to gain greater understanding of the linkages between water, sanitation and economic growth to commit appropriate resources and promote mutual accountability, partnership and shared responsibility.

By Jose Roy

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