WHO, UN-Water Report Finds Investing US$1 in WASH Delivers US$4.3 Return
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Every dollar invested in water and sanitation returns US$4.3 and an estimated gain of 1.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) through reduced health care costs, as well as providing benefits such as reduced pollution, greater workplace productivity, increased school attendance and greater dignity, privacy and safety, according to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on behalf of UN-Water.

Despite increasing momentum and financial commitments to increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), the report finds serious gaps in funding continue to hinder progress.

WHO - UN-Water19 November 2014: Every dollar invested in water and sanitation returns US$4.3 and an estimated gain of 1.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) through reduced health care costs, as well as providing benefits such as reduced pollution, greater workplace productivity, increased school attendance and greater dignity, privacy and safety, according to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on behalf of UN-Water. Despite increasing momentum and financial commitments to increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), the report finds serious gaps in funding continue to hinder progress.

‘Investing in Water and Sanitation: Increasing Access, Reducing Inequalities’ is the third biennial UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLASS) report. It includes data from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies. WHO released the report on the occasion of World Toilet Day.

“Water and sanitation must be clear priorities if we are to create a future that allows everyone to live healthy, prosperous and dignified lives,” said UN-Water Chair Michel Jarraud, who also serves as Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). WHO emphasizes that strengthened national commitments on water are reflected in the proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes global targets on universal and equitable WASH access.

Financial commitments on water and sanitation increased from US$8.3 to US$10.9 billion between 2010 and 2012, according to the report. These commitments are increasing targeted to sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Southeastern Asia.

Still, 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, with 1 billion people practicing open defecation and 748 million people lacking access to an improved drinking water sources. The report states that this lack of access to WASH contributes to water-borne diseases, such as cholera, hepatitis and typhoid. It also notes that poor WASH facilities exacerbated the spread of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Governments are showing strong support for universal WASH access, according to the report. Sixty-six percent of countries have national legislation that recognizes water and sanitation as a universal human right. Over 80% of countries have national policies on drinking water and sanitation, and over 75% have hygiene policies. However, the report highlights a “large gap between aspirations and reality,” noting weak national capacity to set targets and formulate and implement plans.

Key challenges highlighted in the report include: inconsistent data gathering and poor capacity for analysis on WASH, which impedes decision-making and progress for the poorest; limited national capacity to fully implement and review national WASH plans; and insufficient funding to meet national WASH targets. To improve WASH access and reduce inequalities, the report recommends, inter alia: securing and targeting international and national financing; prioritizing health facilities to strengthen action on hygiene, which is a neglected WASH component; supporting operation and maintenance of existing infrastructure and services; and expanding efforts in areas where the need for improved services is the highest. [UN Press Release] [WHO Press Release] [Publication: GLASS 2014 Report] [WSSCC Press Release] [SWA Press Release]

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