Slum dwellers should be a priority for water and sanitation investment

by WaterAid | WaterAid - UK
Thursday, 6 October 2011 13:50 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Investment in water and sanitation in the rapidly urbanising cities of the developing world is key if we are to avoid uncontrollable poverty and ever worsening slums, says WaterAid in a new report:

Timeyin Uwejamomere of WaterAid said: "We are seeing an explosion of poverty in the cities of the developing world.

"If we continue the way, we are the gross inequality between rich and poor could be almost impossible to reverse. But there is an opportunity to turn things around if we act now.

"Water and sanitation have proved time and time again to be a critical factor in health and economic development. We only need to look at the development of the 'Asian Tigers' to see that long-term, reliable funding into urban water and sanitation infrastructure has a powerful impact on economic productivity, as well as driving down poverty."

Cities in the developing world are expected to double in population size every 15 years, and two thirds of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2030. The vast majority of these people will end up living in unplanned slums, with little or no access to fundamental services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

Water and sanitation are fundamental to health and development, especially in densely packed urban areas, where outbreaks of diseases such as cholera can quickly turn into epidemics.

At present, the diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water and sanitation are the biggest killers of children under 5 in Africa, more than HIV/Aids, malaria and measles combined. In South Asia it is the second biggest killer. 

Current investment into water and sanitation in the slums is inadequate and is failing to reach the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only 6% of World Bank sanitation-related commitments from 2000-2005 went to slums, with the vast majority going to more established urban areas.

The manifesto advises that to tackle urban poverty, the very poorest people need to be at the heart of water and sanitation investments and planning. They should also be encouraged to participate in the design and implementation of these plans.

WaterAid's call for action comes with practical measures and guidelines and is released to coincide with a World Habitat Day meeting in Mexico to discuss urbanisation.

The manifesto lays down a blueprint of how to turn the situation of urban poverty around and showcases examples of good on-the-ground work in a document aimed to advise the international community and national governments.

It calls on strong leadership from international donors to take on the cause of championing the urban poor and direct a 15-year plan.

  • For further information, read Jan Eliasson's, Former foreign minister of Sweden, blog on the Huffington Post website.