On April 19, PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank co-sponsored the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Ministerial Dialogue meeting.
Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) is a partnership of governments, donors, civil society and multilateral organizations. Its aim is to ensure that all people have access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water. It is particularly concerned with those countries where the needs are greatest.
25 ministers responsible for water and sanitation from Oceania, Asia and Africa, assembled among other 160 participants which include top officials from those countries and other members of the SWA, to focus on the significant economic and health gains that can be made from investing in sanitation and water and the costs of failing to invest.
Dr. Socorro Gross, PAHO’s Assistant Director, welcomed the Chair, and the ministers and representatives of the participating countries and the SWA. She referred to water and sanitation as an important determinant of health, critical for sustainable development and highlighted the efforts being made in this regard in the region of The Americas. As the participants of the meeting were mainly from other regions, Dr. Gross indicated that “we do not only share this world where we live but also the challenges of poverty and inequality expressed loudly by the lack of access to water and sanitation that our countries experience”.
She mentioned the “Call for Action” that PAHO/UNICEF/CDC are making to address the water & sanitation challenges in Haiti as a critical intervention to control cholera in this country.
She further mentioned how timely has become the consolidation of SWA partnership with important inclusion of civil society in order to demonstrate increased political priorisation for the sector that “will allow for sustainable development with a human face”.
The SWA chaired by His Excellency, John Agyekum Kufuor from Ghana, 2nd President of the Republic of Ghana (2001–2009) and Chairperson of the African Union (2007–2008), a champion for democracy and good governance and of causes such as neglected diseases, equity and education. He welcomed the audience and called for a strong declaration that shows the countries commitments to prioritize water and sanitation by allocating the necessary funding and to directed them to those who are in conditions of vulnerability.
Presentations were made on the impact of country Investments plans, on the results of the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Program and the WHO´s Global Access Survey. It was clearly indicated that while the world has met the MDG drinking water target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water, five years ahead of the 2015 target; the impossibility of measuring water quality at the global level makes it likely that the number of people with access to actually safe drinking water is over-estimated.
Emphasis was made on the fact that the averages mask huge disparities. 783 million people still remain without access to an improved source of drinking water.
On the other hand so much progress is not enjoyed in sanitation as 2.5 billion people are still without sanitation with the 15% of the global population practicing open defecation.
It was pointed that women are continued to be the main person responsible for the collection of water and that at least 2.5 million lives could be promptly saved and the lives of women improved if interventions in water and sanitation were implemented.
The GLASS report of 74 country survey showed that there is a large implementation gap from planning, obtaining funds, execution and reaching goals.
It is expected that the end product of this meeting will be a Ministerial Statement of Commitment that will be presented during Friday’s 20th High level meeting with the Ministers of Finance of the participating countries and the global and regional development banks and other donor and financing organizations who will be meeting at the World Bank.