Nearly two billion people worldwide are at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid or polio from drinking contaminated water. World health authorities are calling for a ‘radical’ increase in water and sanitation investments.
Countries are not increasing spending fast enough to meet the water and sanitation targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), says a new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Today, almost two billion people use a source of drinking-water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director.
“Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause more than 500 000 diarrhoeal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma,” added Neira.
The report warns that must use their financial resources more efficiently and take action to new sources of funding if they are serious about ensuring universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
While countries have raised their budgets for water, sanitation and hygiene at an annual average rate of 4.9 per cent over the past three years, 80 per cent of countries acknowledge that their financing is still not enough to meet nationally defined targets for access to safe water and sanitation.
“And in many developing countries, current national coverage targets are based on achieving access to basic infrastructure, which may not always provide continuously safe and reliable services,” wrote the WHO.
In order to meet the SDG global targets, the World Bank estimates investments in infrastructure need to triple to USD 114 billion per year.
“This is a challenge we have the ability to solve,” said Guy Ryder, Chair of UN-Water, which commissioned the report.
“Increased investments in water and sanitation can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind.”
Image credit: Farhana Asnap / World Bank, flickr