Monitoring water and sanitation beyond taps and toilets (3/4)

This third blog is part of a four-part blog series on monitoring the Global Goal on water and sanitation & the challenge of data aggregation. This week’s blog is authored by Kate Medlicott, Sanitation Team Lead, and Betsy Engebretson (WHO Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health Unit).  It offers some insights on the importance to successfully monitor all components of Global Goal 6, including wastewater and faecal sludge. 

The Millennium Development Goal covering WASH (Goal 7) focused on access to improved water sources and sanitation. While the number of first time users for improved water and sanitation did greatly increase, the fact is that the entire story wasn’t being considered. Was the water at improved sources safe to drink? Were we considering access in all settings, including WASH in healthcare facilities, in schools or in the workplace where we spend most of our time? What was happening to wastewater and faecal sludge? Were they being safely managed and treated or ending up back in the environment and making people sick? Were water and sanitation systems being managed and sustained?

These unanswered questions sparked the Global Goals to take a broader view of water and sanitation. Instead of focusing solely on access and the enabling environment needed to provide access to improved water and sanitation, discussions included topics such as water quality, water reuse, water resource management, and faecal sludge management. These topics are all covered under Global Goal 6, which is focused on water and sanitation, but moves beyond access to taps and toilets and focuses on the entire water cycle.

At the global level, we do not have the data to fully monitor this ambitious agenda. For example, sanitation data on disposal or treatment of excreta are not available for most countries.  However, existing data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) shows that most household in the developing world use onsite facilities that are not connected to sewers even in urban areas.  Where sewers and treatment plants exist many are overloaded or dysfunctional.  Therefore, it is critical to analyze flows and treatment for all sanitation types to represent everyone and help decide where to make improvements towards the Global Goal target for sanitation.  A faecal flow framework for all facilities can be used to estimate safe management and treatment.

This broader focus will give the world a better understanding of what is (or isn’t) happening with wastewater and faecal sludge, both of which can cause serious illness and negative environmental impacts. By including these topics in targets for Global Goal 6, governments will need to take stock of these issues, and the less glamorous, but extremely important, side to water and sanitation will be in the spotlight.

The international community has created an  expanded monitoring initiative for Global Goal 6 to assist countries in getting an accurate picture of what is currently happening with the water cycle and track progress  during the Global Goal period.  The initiative brings together expertise from UNEP, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, FAO, UNESCO, WHO and WMO under the umbrella of UN-Water and links with ongoing monitoring by the WHO/UNICEF JMP that tracked MDG progress to ensure that all components of these complex issues are successfully monitored.

With the Global Goals, we have moved beyond access to taps and toilets and are working to achieve sustainable, safely managed water and sanitation systems.

By Kate Medlicott and Betsy Engebretson, WHO Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health Unit.

-> Read the previous blogs in the series “The challenges of monitoring WASH in Health Care Facilities” (2/4) and  “WASH Monitoring and the Global Goals” (1/4)


New Government Spending Watch data and report – Scaling-up WASH spending to reach everyone, everywhere (2/4)

This second blog is part of a four-part blog series written by Jo Walker who manages the Government Spending Watch (GSW) programme. It reflects some of the conclusions outlined in the most recent Government Spending Watch report “Financing the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs”.  This week’s blog questions what it will take to reach the unreached.

WASH spending needs to double to achieve the SDGs
The stagnation in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) spending in recent years is worrying- as we explored in last week’s blog – not least because the SDGs goal and targets envision a massive scale-up – to universal coverage. While the water target for the MDG was globally met (implying action might be easier in the SDGs), many countries still have far to go, especially as the sanitation target for the MDGs was not met. This is clearly going to entail a huge expansion of financing. Therefore there is no doubt that vastly more investment is required for the sector.  According to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), around US$24 billion could be required annually to ensure universal access to safe water and sanitation. The United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) estimates that sanitation will account for the vast bulk of these investment needs. According to our analysis, universal WASH coverage would require a doubling in current spending.

Leaving no-one behind is going be an even greater challenge
The MDGs allowed governments to focus on improving lives for the relatively easy-to-reach populations. The SDGs will require a focus on the hardest to reach. For instance, bringing infrastructure services to the poorest slum dwellers, living in chaotic informal settlements, or those living in remote hard-to-reach rural areas, is going to be harder (and costlier). This implies higher unit costs to reach marginalised groups, especially in informal settlements and urban slums.  In addition, the SDGs are broadening the focus as they include sustainable water resources management given increasing water scarcity, and specify more detailed goals for hygiene. All this requires that delivering services may become more expensive.

UNCTAD also suggests that expanding equitable coverage to all will require public investment in services to meet the needs of the poorest. This will almost certainly require a heavy reliance on government and donor funds – even if private finance can play a more prominent role-  to ensure equity and that ‘no-one is left behind’. As well as now being committed to the inclusive development commitments enshrined in the SDG framework – which means governments should ensure they find sufficient funds to meet these goals – it is also a sound investment by governments to do so, with clear economic gains. For instance, WHO estimates that for every US$1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of US$4 by keeping people healthy and productive. While the according to UNDP Human Development Report has estimated that lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene causes sub-Saharan African countries annual losses equivalent to 5% of GDP, more than the entire continent receives in development aid.

There can be no doubt that overall, a dramatic increase in investment is required for the sector.  In the post-2015 development world, WASH spending will need to grow dramatically as the global goals are made more ambitious, to provide access to WASH for all.

This blog is part of four-part blog series written by Jo Walker who manages the Government Spending Watch (GSW) programme. GSW believes that there is an urgent need for a much clearer picture of government spending, and for citizens, and their representatives in civil society organisations, to have access to comprehensive and timely data, so that they can hold their governments to account.

-> Read the third blog in our series “A balance between government, donor and private funds”(3/4) to learn more about some key financing solutions for the WASH sector.
-> Read the first blog in the series “Lessons from the MDGs” (1/4).