October 3, 2011
Slum dwellers should be a priority for water and sanitation investment
Investment in water and sanitation in the rapidly urbanizing cities of the developing world is key if we are to avoid uncontrollable poverty and ever worsening slums, says WaterAid.
An elderly woman walks between huts in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Charlie Bibby / Financial Times
WaterAid's call for action is outlined in a new report, Sanitation and water for poor urban communities: A manifesto,
released to coincide with a World Habitat Day meeting in Mexico to discuss urbanization.
Timeyin Uwejamomere of WaterAid said: "We are seeing an explosion of poverty in the cities of the developing world.
"If we continue this way, the gross inequality between rich and
poor could be almost impossible to reverse. But there is an opportunity
to turn things around if we act now."
Funding into urban water and sanitation infrastructure has a powerful
impact on economic productivity, as well as driving down poverty.
-Timeyin Uwejamomere, WaterAid
"Water and sanitation have proved time and time again to be a
critical factor in health and economic development. We only need to look
at the development of the 'Asian Tigers' to see that long-term,
reliable funding into urban water and sanitation infrastructure has a
powerful impact on economic productivity, as well as driving down
Cities in the developing world are expected to double in population
size every 15 years, and two thirds of the world's population will live
in urban areas by 2030. The vast majority of these people will end up
living in unplanned slums, with little or no access to fundamental
services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
Water and sanitation are fundamental to health and development,
especially in densely packed urban areas, where outbreaks of diseases
such as cholera can quickly turn into epidemics. At present diarrheal diseases caused by a lack of safe water and sanitation is
the biggest killer of children under five in Africa, claiming more children's lives than HIV/AIDS,
malaria and measles combined. In South Asia it is the second biggest
Current investment into water and sanitation in the slums is
inadequate and is failing to reach the poorest and most vulnerable
people. Only 6% of World Bank sanitation-related commitments from
2000-2005 went to slums, with the vast majority going to more
established urban areas. WaterAid's new manifesto shows that to tackle urban
poverty, the very poorest people need to be at the heart of water and
sanitation investments and planning. They should also be encouraged to
participate in the design and implementation of these plans.
The manifesto lays down a blueprint of how to turn the situation of
urban poverty around and showcases good examples of on-the-ground work
in a document aimed to advise the international community and national
governments. It calls on strong leadership from international donors to
take on the cause of championing the urban poor and direct a 15-year
WaterAid is committed to expanding our own urban programs: in 2010/11 over 20% of the people we reached live in cities or small towns.