On World Water Day our Honorary Co-President Glenys Kinnock wrote for the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog, taking the government to task for their poor record on water and sanitation;
I have to express deep concern that:
1. The UK’s bilateral aid to the sector was less than 2% of total aid in 2010 (pdf);
2. The proportion of UK bilateral aid that goes to water and sanitation programming is one third of that of both Germany and Spain (pdf);
3. That the UK’s bilateral aid to the water sector is less than 50% of the average reported by other donors (pdf).
Surely DfID can and should shoulder a greater share of the burden on water, sanitation and hygiene. The reason is plain: in 2010, the UK made just $66.3m of new commitments to water and sanitation, compared to $252m in the previous year under a Labour government.
In 2009, the Labour government committed to spend a total of £200m a year on water and sanitation – just for Africa – while, as the figures clearly show, the coalition invested only half that amount in bilateral spend worldwide in 2010-2011 (pdf).
I’m concerned that in Ghana, where 86% of the population are without access to sanitation, 9.5% of child deaths are due to diarrhoea (second only to malaria). DfID has a large development programme in the country, which receives 3% of all the department’s aid to sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, in spite of this, none of DfID’s aid goes towards sanitation in Ghana, where the government has an excellent sanitation strategy that needs and deserves support. Why doesn’t DfID support this work and integrate it into its health and education programme in Ghana?
And while 5.5% of all diarrhoeal deaths in the world are in Pakistan (set to be DfID’s largest development partner), again none of DfID’s programmes in that country (pdf) are directed to sanitation.
I could give other examples of great concern. But I must ask why there has been a significant deterioration in commitment to such an absolutely crucial area of development aid. What exactly will be done to improve the government’s record so far? When diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children in Africa (and the second biggest killer of children globally), why is water and sanitation one of DfID’s smallest investment portfolios? Why is DfID not leading by example?
Nor do the questions end there. What are the prospects for increased investment and ambition? Is DfID considering the need to extend its work into new countries where the needs are high, and in particular to increase efforts in south Asia?
Answers are needed to these questions, along with a firm commitment to improve on the government record so far. The coalition needs to show that there is a clear understanding of the importance of safe water, and especially the importance of the very neglected priority for the provision of functioning toilets.