WaterAid's unique strategic role

3 min read
Clara and friends
Image: WaterAid/Jafet Potenzo Lopes

It can be difficult to grasp the fact that 785 million people worldwide still don’t have clean water close to home and that 2 billion people still don’t have a decent toilet of their own. The human impact of these statistics is heartbreaking; diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor toilets kills a child under 5 every 2 minutes.

These statistics are horrifying to read, but they do convey something important: that lack of access to water and toilets remains one of the world’s biggest problems and is one that needs the world’s attention.

What should offer hope is that this problem has solutions, and each day WaterAid is working hard to bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to more and more people. Specifically, WaterAid is working with the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, determined to ensure no one is left behind.

In 2015 we launched a five-year global strategy that articulated our role in eradicating extreme poverty. Providing access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene is obviously a fundamental part of this global mission, but our strategy proposed four areas where we need to focus in order to best influence change. These are reducing inequality, strengthening sustainable services, integration, and improving hygiene behaviour. Now, four years on, we’ve decided to extend this strategy until 2022 as we can see that the path we’re on is the right one. 

Our ultimate goal is to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The year 2030, the milestone set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is in our sights but to get there we need to work with others. We need strong partnerships with a range of sectors, commitments from government, and investment from our supporters. Throughout our 2018-19 annual report, you’ll see plenty of references to partnership; it’s a theme that flows through all areas of our work, whether that be our domestic relationships with Australian companies, our international development activities overseas, or our global advocacy efforts. 

You will also see a fair few references to government. One of the benefits of having local teams based in the countries we work is that they are able to build close relationships and trust with local and national leaders. This helps us achieve wide-scale changes within the countries we work, multiplying the impact we could have had by working alone; rather than just delivering improvements to a handful of villages, we can influence changes that positively impact an entire country. This isn’t just theoretical; our successes over the past year in influencing national policies and driving district-wide change exemplify the success of this approach.

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