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Reaching the targets

Reaching the targets

There is no doubt that the MDG target on drinking water can be reached. Even the target on sanitation could be met if sufficient resources and commitment were dedicated to the task.

This, however, will require more resources from national budgets and official development assistance flows. The level of investment, both financial and human, simply has to be stepped up. Not only will this require stronger cost-sharing arrangements between national governments, communities and households, but also the reallocation of existing resources – from government and elsewhere – to target the poorest communities that have struggled without these basic services for too long.

WHO and UNICEF have estimated that reaching the underserved with low-cost, basic levels of service for drinking water and sanitation by the year 2015 will cost $11.3 billion a year. And more than 80 per cent of the total resources will be needed in Asia and Africa.

It would be money well spent, considering the massive benefits that would spring from the achievement – including fewer child deaths and bouts of illness, more days spent by children in school, and time gained for women and girls when water supplies and sanitation facilities are brought closer to home.

The following are nine proposed steps to meeting the MDG targets. They draw heavily from the report of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation.

  1. Raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene in all political and developmental venues. Sanitation is in a state of crisis that needs to be addressed with due urgency.
  2. Increase national government funding of water and sanitation improvements, and adopt ‘fast-track’ countries for rapid scale-up of official development assistance and other forms of financial assistance to the sector, using such selection criteria as good governance and absorptive capacity.
  3. Support and introduce a series of ‘quick impact initiatives’ that include programmes encouraging hand washing, household water treatment, and community-based ‘franchising’ of water and sanitation service delivery in order to demonstrate how a difference can be made in a short time – while stressing the importance of longer-term interventions for providing and upgrading these basic services.
  4. Accelerate access to water and sanitation, with particular attention to the unreached, both urban and rural, by improving the management and allocation of resources and ensuring that national sector programmes focus on access to water and sanitation services to enhance the health and sustainable livelihoods of the poor.
  5. Focus on essential and sustainable low-cost services, especially at the household level, with adequate attention to community-based maintenance and operation systems and to ensuring that plans are in place for the upgrading of services based on people’s ability to pay.
  6. Encourage household water security through the year-round availability of enough water of adequate quality to ensure family survival, health and productivity, without compromising the integrity of the environmental resource base.
  7. Strengthen policies and institutional frameworks needed to improve sanitation, safe water supply and hygiene, and build government capacities for leadership and responsibility.
  8. Recognize the importance of achieving the water and sanitation MDGs in national and regional developmental frameworks.
  9. Strengthen partnerships to help mobilize concern and commitment for action to achieve the MDGs.