Some United Nations agencies say universal access to safe drinking water requires increased investment backed by strong government institutions.
WHO, UNICEF and World Bank in a report released on Monday said governments must invest strategically in building safe drinking water systems by not only increasing funding but also strengthening capacities to plan and coordinate.
The State of the World’s Drinking Water report notes that more than two billion people have gained access to safe drinking water in the past two decades.
It added that “this progress, while positive, is fragile and inequitable with one-quarter of the world’s population left behind.
“Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods, which exacerbate water insecurity, disrupt supplies and devastate communities.”
According to the report, rapid urbanisation is increasing the strain on cities’ capacity to deliver water to millions of people living in in-formal communities and slums.
Dr Maria Neira, the WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said that providing greater access to safe drinking water saved many lives, most of them children.
She, however, added that “climate change is eating into those achievements. We have to accelerate efforts to ensure every person has reliable access to safe drinking water; something that is a human right, not a luxury.”
Neira said the report provided a comprehensive review of the links between water, health and development, with actionable recommendations for governments and partners.
She said it was illustrated by examples of how countries are contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of reaching safely managed drinking water for all by 2030.
Mr Saroj Jha, the Global Director, World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice, said that investing in water and sanitation is critical to health, economic growth and the environment.
Jha said that healthier children become healthier adults who then contribute more to the economy and the society.
He said “this principle is at the core of the World Bank’s Human Capital Project.
“Governments and the private sector must take critical action now to accelerate inclusive and sustainable water supply and sanitation services in both urban and rural areas.”
According to him, governments and partners must dramatically increase political commitment to drinking water and quadruple investments to provide universal access to safe drinking water by 2030.
Jha added that the report provided comprehensive recommendations to enact sustainable improvements that address infrastructure, governance, finance, capacity development, data and information, and innovation, even with limited budgets.
Mr Aidan Cronin, the UNICEF Interim Director, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction (CEED) said overarching recommendations were made.
Cronin said the recommendations would help to strengthen existing institutions by filling gaps, facilitate coordination, establish regulatory environment supported by legislation and standards for service quality, and ensure enforcement, among others.