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First annual High Level Meeting for Sanitation and Water for All aims to be a watershed for reaching the MDG targets

Adequate sanitation and access to safe water directly impact the health and economic status of families and nations

Washington D.C./Dhaka, April 23, 2010 - With only five years remaining to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people living without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, a new global partnership, Sanitation and Water for All, is convening its first annual High Level Meeting today to stimulate urgent action towards ensuring that access to sanitation and safe drinking water becomes a reality for the billions who still live without it.
“Safe drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene are essential for the health and welfare of individuals as well as nations. Countries cannot make progress if millions of working days and school days are lost due to diseases caused by contaminated water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, and if children are still dying from preventable causes such as diarrhoea,” said Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

At least 2.5 billion cases of diarrhoea occur in children under five years of age every year, and an estimated 1.5 million children die from it annually. Huge savings in health care costs and gains in productive days can be realized by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene—amounting to some 2% to over 7% of gross domestic product, depending on the region.
Hosted by UNICEF, the Sanitation and Water for All, High Level Meeting, is bringing together 35 ministers from developing countries, donors and development agencies for the united goal of achieving universal and sustainable access to sanitation and drinking water.
A high level delegation composed of the Finance Minister, Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith and the Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister, Mr. Syed Ashraful Islam will represent Bangladesh in the meeting.

Although Bangladesh is on track to achieve the MDG target for access to safe drinking water, arsenic contamination, increased salinity in groundwater in the coastal belt, declining groundwater levels, susceptibility to the impact of natural disasters pose significant risks to the availability of safe drinking water. Today, 20 million people are still drinking arsenic contaminated water in Bangladesh. The practice of open defecation has been significantly reduced to 7 per cent from  33 per cent in 1990. However, only 53% of population has access to improved sanitation facilities.

 “Bangladesh has to deal with very particular challenges regarding safe water and sanitation for all. However, the Government is committed to provide safe water to all citizens by 2011. A special fund of US$ 200 million will be created to provide arsenic safe water. The sector development plan is being revised to provide clearer directions with the corresponding funding requirement,” said Mr. Monzur Hossain, the Secretary of Local Government Division.
According to the current estimate the sector requires US$ 1.9 billion investment for the period of 2010-2015, with a funding gap of US$ 600 million. At the High Level Meeting, the Government of Bangladesh will pledge to take necessary steps to reform service delivery, build the capacity of sector institutions and reduce the water supply and sanitation financing gap by at least one third.

Investing in improved sanitation and access to safe drinking water helps alleviate poverty disease and malnutrition, promotes universal primary education and reduces child mortality, all resulting in high economic returns/benefits.
Improved sanitation and water in developing countries yield an average of about US$ 9 for every one dollar spent, resulting in huge savings in health care costs and gains in productive days. By this measure, meeting the MDG target on sanitation and drinking water in the countries that are not on track could have an annual economic benefit of US$ 38 billion.

However, in many countries, as in Bangladesh, progress is lagging not only due to financial constraints but also due to the absence of national planning and policies that guide activities on the ground. The High Level Meeting aims to ensure that developing countries have the support they need to develop national sanitation and water programmes, along with investment and accountability frameworks, which ensure resources are targeted to create maximum impact.

While the world is on track to meet or exceed the MDG target on safe drinking water, progress toward improved sanitation has been slow, with almost four out of ten people in the world – some 2.6 billion – living without improved sanitation.

Despite low sanitation coverage, governments have generally not applied any criteria for targeting sanitation to un-served and poor populations. According to the latest UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report, funding for drinking water is often three times more than that for sanitation.

The expected outcomes of this first annual High Level Meeting include:

  • The identification of specific steps to improve the use of existing funds and mobilize new resources;
  • Agreement on how to coordinate support for off-track countries to develop national sanitation and drinking water plans;
  • A better understanding of the positive impact safe drinking water and sanitation have on economic growth and human development;
  • An endorsement of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership and commitments to its principles of mutual accountability.

The first annual High Level Meeting is a catalyst for increasing resources and efforts at the national and international levels to achieve the MDG targets for water and sanitation in the interim and water and sanitation for all in the future.

About Sanitation and Water for All
Sanitation and Water for All is a global partnership aimed at achieving universal and sustainable access to sanitation and drinking-water for all, by firmly placing sanitation and water on the global agenda with an immediate focus on achieving the MDGs in the most off-track countries.

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For more information, please contact:
• Arifa S. Sharmin, Communication Specialist, communication and Information Section, UNICEF Tel: 9336701-10 Ext:442, Email:



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