From the Chair and Chief Executive

3 min read
Rob Skinner and Rosie Wheen
Image: WaterAid/James Grant

Rob Skinner AM, Chair

The water, sanitation and hygiene challenges facing the world are as important as ever, reinforcing the critical role played by WaterAid.

As Chair of WaterAid International I’m proud of what this organisation continues to achieve on a global scale. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached over 27 million people with clean water and decent toilets.

Closer to home, WaterAid Australia plays a unique role in the Asia-Pacific region, which encompasses many countries that have historically performed poorly against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) indicators. The growing threat of climate change is set to exacerbate water scarcity issues, meaning now is the time to help our neighbours in this region invest in sustainable solutions and improve their resilience.

As our teams in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Australia continue to help people access clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene for the first time, the Board is also keeping an eye on the future and thinking about the strategic shifts we need to make if we are to achieve our mission.

One of these shifts, which you can read about here, is the changing role of our water sector partners. For years many of these generous organisations have contributed financially; this year, we’ve started to explore ways of using the expertise and technical skills of these partners to deliver innovative solutions. We know that reaching the SDG targets for water and sanitation will require support from the private sector so we look forward to this collaboration increasing over the years ahead.

To all our partners and supporters reading this report, thank you for your contribution to our work; we could not do this without you. And to those of you thinking about increasing your support for WaterAid, we hope this report inspires you to support our life-changing work.

Rosie Wheen, Chief Executive

A recent day trip in Cambodia reminded me once again why WaterAid does what we do.

I was just 10 minutes off a main road in Kampong Chhnang, but the simple raised house, scrawny chickens and parched rice fields made me feel like I had travelled miles. I sat on a bamboo platform with a woman my age. She sat with her seven year old son perched on her knee. I asked her ‘How do you access water?’ Mrs Seng* responded in a way I’d never before witnessed in my 15 years with WaterAid: she burst into tears.

Mrs Seng explained to me that she and her husband are HIV positive. Because of the stigmas associated with this, she can’t use the nearby tap stands with clean water. She walks one hour each way to collect dirty water from a disused well. A humiliating journey and a heavy burden. 

As Mrs Seng spoke and cried, I looked to Mrs Pou, the commune leader. Mrs Pou is an inspiring woman who is not only determined to ensure good water and sanitation facilities reach this community, but that social barriers affecting Mrs Seng and her family are broken down. Earlier that day, Mrs Pou vowed “I won’t rest until everyone has a toilet.”

Meeting Mrs Seng you see why it’s critical that WaterAid leaves no one behind. Seeing the determination of Mrs Pou, I know that Cambodia has the leaders to make this happen.

Over the pages ahead, you’ll see evidence of this in action - WaterAid collaborating to drive change, bring out the best in people and leave nobody behind. I hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me.

*Name changed to protect identity

This article first appeared in WaterAid Australia's Annual Report 2018-19