Water is key to poverty reduction and health

During World Water Day celebrations, it was humbling by the fact that over 663 million people on the planet still lived without access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. With these challenges persisting around the world despite decades of hard work in the water and sanitation sectors, the key question we ask is are we at a point where we need to take a step back from current solutions and practices and do business differently?

The new Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic (WASH PD) initiative suggests exactly that.

New findings from the WASH PD initiative (led by the World Bank Water Global Practice in collaboration with Poverty, Governance, and Health, Nutrition, and Population) for the first time advances our understanding in a systematic manner of the relationship between poverty and WASH at the country level. Our deep analysis of 18 countries—across six regions—provides us with new evidence of realities that must be acknowledged, and shows without a doubt that we must work together across sectors if we are to find solutions with sustained impacts on the ground.

Quick facts from around the world: 

  • In Mozambique, 90 percent of the poorest mothers lack access to antenatal care and 90 percent of underweight mothers only have access to unimproved sanitation
  • In Nigeria, 61 percent of the rural population lives more than 30 minutes away – and 34% lives more than 2 hours away – from a functioning water source
  • In Tajikistan, households in the Sugd Region report getting piped water 1 day per week
  • In Pakistan, despite improvements to nutritious food, reductions in open defecation and poverty, childhood stunting has stayed constant at 43 percent.  Construction of unimproved toilets and persistent water quality issues are not helping reduce this burden
  • In Indonesia, it is estimated that only 5 percent of urban wastewater is safely treated and disposed
  • In Tunisia, the richest 20 percent of households receive an estimated 27 percent of water subsidies, while the bottom 20 percent of households receive only 11 percent of the subsidies
  • In Ecuador, 93 percent of people in urban areas and 76 percent in rural areas has improved access to water services but still, 24 percent of the rural population drinks contaminated water

What we’re learning is telling:  Our initiative reveals critical gaps in policy, or between policy and implementation, which leads to poor service delivery. Working with Governance colleagues at the World Bank is stretching us beyond our water sector lens, and it is becoming abundantly clear that service delivery is many times hindered by inter-governmental fiscal and administrative systems and the interplay with politics. This may not come as a surprise to those who work with these issues on the ground, but now we have the numbers to prove it.

If we shift our focus from purely designing and implementing a project to the ‘service delivery problem’, the need for multi-sectoral thinking becomes apparent. For example, in Nigeria our analysis shows that nearly 30 percent of water points and water schemes fail within the first year. Forty-four percent of borehole construction projects are never started, and only 37 percent of borehole projects that get started are fully completed. The results are that 71 percent of Nigerian households in the lowest wealth quintile lack access to a protected water source. Read more

Make rain water harvesting a people’s movement for the world

I recently read an article in an Indian online news paper (The Hindu) which recommended rainwater harvesting to be rendered a people ‘s movement that i thought would work for the whole world in general. As you well know rain water harvesting has been practiced all over the world for the last 4,000 years. It improves the quantity and quality of ground water, raises the water level in wells and bore-wells, mitigates the effect of drought, and reduces soil erosion by controlling the surface runoff. It also decreases choking of ground water drains and flooding of roads and saves energy. As a result of continuous extraction, ground water levels all over the world especially in Africa. The world at large is facing a crisis of water and its ground water is under serious threat because of illegal and irrational extraction,”

The article suggested a strong advocacy for simplifying the procedures of providing policy support, financial assistance and technical guidance to the citizens and residents’ welfare associations to ensure that harvesting becomes a major initiative to improve the ground water levels in the city. it also cited a need for preparation of strategies and an action plan which is implementable.

With this i suggest that governments around the world should enforce rainwater harvesting

It’s early to put a judgement on CLTS in Ghana

Speaking at a knowledge sharing and learning workshop organized by Community Livelihood Improvement programme (CLIP), Charles (M&E Officer) at New Energy Tamale said it was too early assess the impact of CLTS in Ghana especially due to the fact that country was still struggling to attain the MDG for sanitation. He said although there seems to be an increase in the number of Open Defecation Free (ODF) Communities especially in the Northern region, those figures do not necessarily reflect what is on ground. He elaborated that if we say 50 out of 1000 communities have attained ODF, then this means the country on course but with a lot work to be done.

Data from the Ghana Statistical Service ranks the Northern Region the third highest behind the Upper East and the Upper West Regions on the open defecation list in Ghana with about 72% of the population in the region practicing open defecation.

Charles said CLTs was the best approach to eradicate Open defecation in the whole of Ghana but needs some time to fully assess its impact. He further said the government needs to honor its o.5% commitment of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to sanitation in order to reduce this statistic.

Participants during the workshop

Marketing sanitation through result based financing

Improved sanitation and hygiene services integrated with potable and adequate water supply services are a critical factor in deciding the health of a nation. Indeed, it estimated that lack of or inadequate provision of these services is capable of undermining the achievement of targets set for MDGs 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. Whilst most countries are on course to achieving MDG target for water, the same cannot be said of sanitation and hygiene. or example Ghana’s achievement is at 13% whilst 20% of the population defecates openly. The economic and health impact of this situation cannot be underestimated. The Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) estimates that Ghana loses GHC42 million annually in terms of health, lost in labour and productivity caused by lack of, and,  or inadequate sanitation and hygiene services.

Putting everyone back on-track the MDG target for sanitation requires development and implementation of innovative but effective programmes involving sector players with a capacity for replication across the country. This would require creating marketing strategy for sanitation which would reduce the gaps/ loop holes in project implementation. Dealing with this requires changing the way most projects have been funded and adopt a result based approach. A result based financing (RBF) approach would influence policy makers to prioritize sanitation sector investments through an incentive scheme

With result based financing funding is provided if pre- specified results have been achieved. This means that there are limited incentives to reduce the cost of providing services because funding is based on an input basis. The approach ensures that cash is given on delivery of results. Result based approach targets suppliers to provide them with an incentive to provide services to the poor .

The full amount of funds is paid to the service providers only when results have been achieved and verified by a third party. Subsidies are also provided to encourage provision of basic services to the poor in areas that are not commercially attractive.


›RBF instruments have the potential to improved the sanitation sector’s focus on results and performance verification.
›RBF instruments are new and largely untested particularly in the sanitation sector.
›Going forward we need to invest great care in the design of the instruments and evaluate the costs and benefits of such schemes in comparison to traditional forms of financing

Questions on functionality of wash facilities in schools

Possible place for open defecation by pupils

One of the major problems affecting schools upto date is the issue of functionality of the wash rooms used by the pupils. The fact that a school has wash facilities does not mean that they are operational. A survey carried out by in Ghana by CONIWAS through the use of the community school scorecard  availed a number of emerging issues which include:

Who has the responsibility of cleaning the school facilities? Should parents and children play a leading role in this?
Are the headmasters, PTAs and SMCs consulted on the issues sanitary facilities?
¨Headmaster; we need a platform for the schools to influence some the decisions made by the policy makers regarding provision WASH facilities in our schools.
We need sustainable wash facilities {for example the building behind my school was put in place but there are no fittings.}
What percentage of caption should be used for sanitation facilities maintenance? {€75 is not enough to run a school if you want good sanitation and hygiene in the school.}
Who provides  dustbins and toilets roll for use daily?
Who provides hand washing stands with soap for proper hand washing?
Who funds repairs of facilities?
How can it be ensured that the toilets have water, soap, toilet roll and light at all times?
We shall have to account for the lives these children whether we like it or not. The Parents, teachers and the assembly people have role to ensure good sanitation and hygiene, said the deputy Headmaster Ring road east JHS, Accra, Ghana

Is your world a wash with germs?

School toilet facility for girls in Ghana

Only one in 10 of us wash our hands after going to the toilet – yet as a society we have never found the idea of germs more disgusting. Why the confusion?

Saturday 15 October marked the fourth annual Global Handwashing Day, and in schoolyards across the world, in Peru and Bangladesh, in Ghana and Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia, 200 million people, most of them children, gathered in a great act of communal handwashing: lines stretched across courtyards, tiny hands pressed beneath taps, a flurry of soap, water and lather. Global Handwashing Day is a multi-organisational initiative, launched to convince us that the simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce the spread of often fatal diseases and acute respiratory infections. Its organisers estimate that hand-washing with soap could save more lives than any single vaccine or other form of medical intervention.

Encouraging people to wash their hands after using the toilet or before handling food might seem like stating the obvious. But the truth is quite disturbing: people lie – and lie quite spectacularly – about their personal hygiene.