Water, toilets and hygiene essential to poverty reduction and economic growth


19 Jun 2014 | AU

Yesterday’s new aid policy announcement by the Federal Government shows a growing recognition that access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is a central part of both poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth, with particular benefits for women and girls.

“Equality for women and girls is an issue close to my heart, all too often I meet with women who spend hours every day carrying heavy loads of water, and young girls who are too embarrassed to go to school because there are no toilets available,” said WaterAid Australia Acting Chief Executive Rosie Wheen.

WaterAid believes the Australian Government has a leading role to play in addressing the global water, sanitation and hygiene crisis – a crisis marked by one-third of the world’s population currently lacking adequate sanitation (a staggering 2.5 billion people) and 748 million people living without safe, clean water.

Part of Australia’s role in addressing this crisis is ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene is given sufficient priority in Australia’s Foreign Aid Budget.

“While WaterAid was calling for 5% of aid to be allocated to water, sanitation and hygiene, we certainly see an increase in funding from 3.3% to 4.3% as a positive step forward. In taking this step, the Government is demonstrating its awareness that safe water, sanitation and hygiene are fundamental to both human and economic development,” said Ms Wheen.

Implicit in the specific reference to the provision of water and sanitation in community health centres and schools on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website is the understanding that water, sanitation and hygiene empowers the most disadvantaged members of society, and is therefore a pre-condition to inclusive growth. Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene enables women, children and people living with disabilities, amongst others, to participate in society, transforming not only their lives, but by extension the lives and livelihoods of whole communities.

“The other significant contribution the Australian Government can make to addressing the global water, sanitation and hygiene crisis is to bring its voice to discussions taking place globally on the shape of the new Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ms Wheen.

“WaterAid hopes yesterday’s announcement signals positive intent on the part of the Australian Government to promote water and sanitation as central to the post 2015 framework.  As we turn our attention to the final stages of planning the Sustainable Development Goals – a 15 year road map to eradicate poverty – it is time for Australia to lend its weight to the diplomatic discussions taking place globally, to ensure the inclusion of a dedicated goal on water and sanitation,” said Ms Wheen.

“It should not be forgotten, however, that the water and sanitation crisis is a global one, and affects people across Africa, South Asia and the Pacific. While an aid program focused on our region is important it should not be at the cost of lives in countries beyond our doorstep,” concluded Ms Wheen.

Kirrily Johns, Communications Manager: 03 9001 8246 or [email protected]

About WaterAid
WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 26 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 19.2 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 15.1 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit: www.wateraid.org/au