You are here

The price of water aid in Sub-Saharan Africa

Report calls for developing countries to increase spending on water and sanitation.

more below

You are here

Aug 25, 2012

Water and sanitation aid provided to countries in sub-Saharan Africa each year amounts to less per person than the price of a cup of coffee, just $2.39 a year, according to a new report by WaterAid and Development Initiatives. The report concludes "it is difficult to see how volumes this low can have anything but a marginal impact".

The report, Addressing the shortfall: The urgent need for increased and better targeted aid to the water and sanitation sector (Executive summary - PDF file 477 KB), launches as experts from across the globe convene in Stockholm for the annual World Water Week to discuss global water and food security.

The report calls for developing countries and donors to increase spending on water and sanitation as well as target funding more effectively towards the world's poorest people.

Dr. David Winder, CEO of WaterAid America said:
"While we are thrilled that U.S. government contributions to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services at the household level have increased under the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, other streams of international development assistance that are critical to successful WASH programs, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Global Health Programs, remain under threat."

He continued: "If Congress would fully fund the International Affairs budget and provide it with critical increases over coming years, we could not only have much greater impact on the lives of the world's poorest people, but could leverage the global community into finally meeting its commitments to WASH and enhance global economic security, as well. Many sectors, including education, health, nutrition, and agriculture, are mutually dependent with WASH for their success. For our foreign policy goals to be achieved, these must all have sufficient resources directed to those who need it most."

With 783 million people lacking access to water and 2.5 billion without access to adequate sanitation, the report reaches the "uncomfortable verdict that resourcing of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, in both human and financial terms, falls well short of what is required".

The report also finds that water and sanitation aid is not well targeted. For example, between 2008 and 2010 the 27 countries accounting for 90% of diarrheal deaths (primarily caused by dirty water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene), received only 39% of water and sanitation aid. Similarly, the 28 countries accounting for 90% of the world’s population without basic sanitation received less than half (47%) of the aid.

However the report also points out that in many developing countries, large increases in aid can only be effectively and efficiently managed if investment is also made to develop management capacity and to undertake structural reforms. Without the right people, systems and processes in place, governments may be unable to spend well.

The report notes that between 2002 and 2010, around 30% of funds that development partners committed to the water and sanitation sector may have been misreported or just not released, with potentially tens of millions of the world's poorest missing out on access to these essential services.

With $54 billion committed over this period, only $37 billion is recorded in disbursements. As the report specifies, this shortfall of $17 billion reflects either a failure to follow through on committed financing, inability to spend well or a systemic problem in the ways in which volumes of aid are reported.

The report also shows that funding to water and sanitation has dropped in proportion to other aid spending, and in absolute terms. Funding fell by over $900 million between 2009 and 2010, a decrease of over 10%.

WaterAid reaffirms a key set of recommendations to tackle the global water and sanitation crisis, including the need to:

  • Double global aid flows to water, sanitation and hygiene to release an additional US$10 billion per year.
  • Target aid on the basis of need to Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and some Pacific countries in particular.
  • Provide aid as grants rather than loans to low-income countries, and focus on basic services for rural areas and poor urban areas.
  • Reduce the burden of red tape on national governments and align aid with national policies and systems.
  • Support the capacity to spend effectively through investment in people and processes in developing countries.
  • Dedicate technical resources and political focus on strengthening national planning processes, particularly through support for the Sanitation and Water for All partnership's National Planning for Results Initiative.
  • Place equity and sustainability at the heart of all approaches to delivering services. The full report is available here: Addressing the Shortfall - The urgent need for increased and better targeted aid to the water and sanitation sector (PDF File 8.1MB)

As well as examining trends in water and sanitation aid flows over 2000 to 2010 the full report also includes detailed profiles of some of the main donors within this sector, including: Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, African Development Fund, Asian Development Bank, The European Union, and the World Bank (IDA).