Almost two fifths of the world’s population do not have access to adequate sanitation and roughly one person in eight does not have access to safe water. These and other staggering figures relating to water will be presented in a report to be launched on World Water Day by Mr Bob McMullan, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Development Assistance.
The report is a synthesis of the international Sanitation and Water Conference held in Melbourne in late 2008 to mark the International Year of Sanitation. Calling for urgent action and a new approach, the report highlights challenges associated with promoting access to safe water and sanitation in our region and around the world.
In a foreword to the report, Mr McMullan reminds us that, “behind the staggering statistics are daily struggles faced by families to lead healthy and dignified lives. Children, especially adolescent girls, don’t go to school if there are no proper toilets and safe drinking water. Women pay the highest cost for lack of access to sanitation and safe water, yet their voices are weakest in decision making around these investments.”
A statement from the 200 conference participants calls for recognition of this international crisis. It calls for a new approach and increased efforts commensurate with the scale of need. It argues that increased national political leadership and mobilisation of civil society can help overcome the current impasse, as can a stronger focus on governance and capacity building.
The synthesis report provides a new path forward and alternatives to "business as usual" which, it argues, haven’t worked. Key messages include urging partner governments and development agencies to "do sanitation differently" focusing on collective behaviour change rather than subsidised toilets that remain unused.
The report was authored by Dr Juliet Willetts (UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures), James Wicken (WaterAid Australia) and Andy Robinson (independent consultant). The report is available at http://www.isf.uts.edu.au/publications/willetts2009synthesisreport.pdf.