WHO Issues Guidance on Promoting Equitable Access to Safe Drinking Water
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The guidance document presents a five-stage process for integrating equity considerations in 1) preparation, 2) system assessment, 3) monitoring, 4) management and communication, and 5) feedback and improvement.

The guide recommends meaningful participation of disadvantaged groups, along with understanding which groups are able to access water supply, and which are excluded.

22 April 2019: The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a guide on how water utilities, organizations and other stakeholders can plan for safe water supply while promoting equity and social inclusion. The 68-page guidance document highlights the opportunity for water safety plans (WSPs) to contribute to achievement of the SDGs, especially SDG target 6.1 on safe drinking water for all, provided that equity considerations become part of policy, implementation and monitoring. WHO reports that at least 93 countries so far have introduced WSPs, and more are expected to do so.

The guidance document titled, ‘A Guide to Equitable Water Safety Planning: Ensuring No One is Left Behind,’ presents a five-stage process for integrating equity considerations in 1) preparation, 2) system assessment, 3) monitoring, 4) management and communication, and 5) feedback and improvement. Meaningful participation of disadvantaged groups is recommended, as is understanding which groups are able to access water supply, and which are excluded.

WHO notes that technical specialists in water supply systems may be unfamiliar with ideas of equity in water supply services and that awareness raising and training may be needed in some contexts. Problem areas include control measures related to catchment levels or consumer use. For example, removing illegal water supply connections may further disadvantage poor households who cannot afford to pay regular service fees, and catchment protection measures that restrict farming activity could affect livelihoods and result in farmers’ non-compliance with restrictions on water for irrigation.

The report compares various solutions to common issues such as open defecation, and highlights those that are less likely to disadvantage poor and vulnerable groups. For example, forcibly removing illegal settlements is a less desirable solution from an equity point of view than providing sanitation facilities within the settlement.

The Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney (ISF-UTS) authored the document, and conducted field research in collaboration with WHO in the Asia-Pacific region. In late 2017, WHO sought feedback from review and pilot activities in other countries and regions on the content of the guide. The guidance document includes case examples from Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines. [Publication: A Guide to Equitable Water Safety Planning: Ensuring No One is Left Behind] [UN-Water News Story]

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