World Water Day 2010: Clean water for a healthy world

Mar 22, 2010

An improved irrigation system improves agricultural production in Tanzania.

Today, on World Water Day, we are reminded of how the availability of clean water and safe sanitation shapes human lives in many ways. It impacts human health and the survival of young children; it influences school enrolment and learning, especially for girls; it affects the burden of securing water for daily living, especially for women; and it changes livelihood opportunities and the health of ecosystems that sustain life. Access to safe water and sanitation is a key driver of human development.

Globally, the world is on track to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to a safe supply of drinking water by 2015, a key human development target laid out by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are eight development targets agreed upon by the world’s leaders in order to halve extreme poverty by 2015. But significant gaps remain in many countries everywhere, while the sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania regions as a whole are not on track to meet the water MDG by 2015. Nonetheless, several countries in sub-Saharan Africa are making rapid progress, in spite of historically low rates of access to clean water, and rapidly growing populations.

The sanitation situation, however, remains daunting. Globally, 2.6 billion people are still without improved sanitation today. Unless the pace of progress increases rapidly, it will be 2.7 billion in 2015. The world is quickly losing ground in reaching the MDG target for sanitation, which calls for reducing by half the proportion of people without access to adequate sanitation.

Shortcomings in water governance – how decisions are made about the use of water and provision of water and sanitation services – remain an underlying constraint on better progress towards the MDG water target. Support for governance reform and improving participation, transparency and accountability is the focus of UNDP’s assistance to countries to scale up equitable access to water and sanitation. UNDP supports water and sanitation activities in more than 60 countries. UNDP’s capacity building network called Cap-Net, and its Water Governance Facility, provide access to policy advice, best practices and tools to decision-makers and practitioners to plan and implement sound water management and provision of services.

Responding to the urgent need for assistance in countries that are farthest behind, UNDP’s GoAL WaSH initiative supports Governance, Advocacy and Leadership for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. GoAL WaSH implements strategically targeted interventions that strengthen governance of the water and sanitation sectors in challenged and ‘fragile’ states, where the water and sanitation deficits are greatest.

At the local level, UNDP partners with civil society, local government and the private sector, supporting integrated approaches to service provision and sustainability of water supplies. For instance through its Community Water Initiative and the Every Drop Matters partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, UNDP’s Community Water Initiative has trained villagers in Ghana to establish and maintain wells for safe drinking water. As a result, public health and school attendance have improved. In Kazakhstan, in partnership with Coca-Cola, UNDP EDM repaired and extended an aging water supply system in Kok-Ozek village.

In Tanzania, CWI supported local communities to use renewable energy to power irrigation and water supply systems, increasing agricultural production and radically decreasing the incidence of water borne diseases. In Sri Lanka, a community initiative supported by UNDP purified contaminated wells by planting trees whose roots remove the contaminants from the water in wells.

UNDP’s experience in communities around the world demonstrates the tremendous benefits of access to water and adequate sanitation to people’s lives, both in economic and human terms. Failure to achieve the sanitation and water MDG targets will jeopardize the achievement of all the MDGs in many countries. Accelerated progress on the water and sanitation MDGs, on the other hand, could trigger the next leap forward in poverty reduction and human development.

Related links:

World Water Day (22 March 2010) UN-Water official site

WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation


Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation

3rd UN World Water Development Report, 2009, Part 4, Responses and Choices


UNDP Water Governance

UNDP Around the world