BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
The entire world faces a very grim future, with its children being killed in hordes annually, as a result of increasingly poor and denigrating sanitation and the lack of access to good clean drinking water.
Currently globally, 1.4 million children die every year from preventable diarrhoea and poor sanitation-related diseases alone.
A new report released Tuesday April 17, 2012 by international aid agency WaterAid, headquartered in the United Kingdom, titled Saving Lives, says diarrhoea, which is caused by unsafe drinking water and a lack of quality sanitation, is the biggest killer of children under the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the second biggest killer of children worldwide.
According to the WaterAid report, “there are more people in the world today without sanitation than there were in 1990”, and “the poor quality of sanitation and lack of access to safe drinking water causes 1.4 million child deaths every year, due to diarrhoea, and that these deaths are preventable”.
Topping the list of 57 countries worldwide that are largely off track is India with 208,984 poor sanitation and water-related under five deaths, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo with 90,358 infant deaths and thus topping the list for Africa.
However, the WaterAid report offers a window of hope, by identifying by country how many children could be saved by getting back on track by the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) completion date.
First though, it states that the lives of 2.5 million people around the world would be saved every year, if every last person had access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
The Saving Lives report, also says that if governments meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the proportion of their population without sanitation by 2015, the lives of 400,000 children under the age of five will be saved around the world – over 100,000 in Nigeria alone.
It reveals that in Nigeria alone, over 100,159 children under the age of five could be saved, in Ghana 2,006, while India could save the lives of over 66,000 children under the age of five. The reality on the ground however is that despite this glimmer of hope, the proportion of people in Nigeria with access to sanitation is actually falling and on current trends it may never reach this MDG, while in Ghana, the MDG target of 54% will be met by the year 2123, 108 years later and India will meet its MDG of 59 by 2041, 26 years too late.
The report also predicts that, at the current rate the global MDG on sanitation will not be met until 2026, 11 years late. It adds that in the Southern Asia region the target on sanitation won’t be reached until 2030, 15 years late, while in Sub-Saharan Africa it will not be until 2175, 160 years later.
The report has been released just three days ahead of the second ever High Level Meeting on water and sanitation incidentally going to be chaired by Ghana’s former President and 2011 Co-World Food Prize winner, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, who is Chairman for the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership, on the 20th of April in Washington DC, USA.
Ex-President J. A. Kufuor was appointed as the first high-level Chair of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership in New York, USA, on November 15, 2011 for a two-year term.
Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) is the key global inter-governmental partnership of governments, donors, civil society organisations, development partners, water and sanitation agencies, which is working to increase funding, improve the efficiency of resource use and strengthen the evidence base for the water supply and sanitation sector.
The partnership convenes a biennial High Level Meeting to raise political awareness, supports countries in their efforts to develop action-oriented plans and works with UN-WATER and WHO to produce the Global Analysis and Assessment of Drinking Water and Sanitation (GLAAS) report.
Reacting to the current sorry state of the world’s sanitation and its significance for the upcoming HLM, Barbara Frost, UK Chief Executive of WaterAid, said: “Governments could save the lives of 400,000 children by meeting their international commitment to invest in sanitation and to achieve this MDG. If governments committed to universal access to safe water to drink and improved sanitation they could save 2.5 million lives every year. It is unacceptable that 37% of the world’s population live without a toilet. The need for action is overwhelming.”
“The Washington meeting is crucial to making real progress improving sanitation and water which are essential to saving children’s lives and to delivering social and economic development. Governments from both developing and donor countries must grasp this opportunity to act in response to the crisis of lost lives,” she added.
The Sanitation and Water for All meeting in Washington on 20th April will bring together 100 ministers and delegates from over 50 countries to discuss the water and sanitation crisis. Participating governments are expected to bring pledges to the table on increasing access to water and sanitation for the next two years, while donor governments also have to provide commitments ahead of the meeting.
The meeting is part of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings and brings together governments, NGOs, the private sector and civil society.