Connecting Waterpeople

Sanitation and Water for All hosts Finance Ministers Meetings online

  • Sanitation and Water for All hosts Finance Ministers Meetings online
    © UNICEF/Abdul. Uganda, 2019. Adoch Caroline, the MCH in charge at Nabilatuk H/C IV using the piped water in the labour ward.
  • The partners of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) work to increase political will and financial prioritization for water and sanitation services through multi-stakeholder collaboration. The ultimate aim is to improve access to these services without discrimination.

Since 2009, the SWA partnership has been organising regular high-level meetings of ministers and other representatives of SWA partners to encourage political dialogue. This year, SWA is convening three Finance Ministers’ Meetings (FMMs) for each of three regions: Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific. They are live streamed, virtual meetings, held in November and December. Why the ministers of finance? Because they are key decision-makers, who can ensure that smart investments in water, sanitation and hygiene are integrated into the economic recovery from the pandemic. The discussions can deal with the political and institutional changes required to use better the existing financing and attract additional funds to the water sector in order to achieve the SDGs.

SWA offers insights to ministers and showcase examples from several countries of financial strategies that have proven to be successful

Two of SWA’s global partners, UNICEF and the World Bank Water Global Practice, as well as regional partners, including regional development banks and organisations, co-convene the meetings. The meetings are an opportunity for dialogue and strengthening partnerships, including ministers and development agencies, but also civil society, private sector, UN agencies, research and learning institutions. The purpose is to exchange lessons learned and to discuss how can all stakeholders work together to deliver on SDG 6.

The preparatory process and the Handbook for Finance Ministers

© UNICEF/Abdul. Uganda, 2019. On 4 April 2019, a child enters the newly constructed latrines with handwashing facilities at Karenga.

In September and October of this year, SWA partners have been involved in a preparatory process to make the most of the ministers’ participation at the FMMs. The process intends to build political will and engagement amongst decision-makers.

The main deliverable of the 2020 preparatory process in each country is a Country Overview, a document that summarises economic opportunities for investments in the WASH sector, and economic and social development. It also contains commitments by government and partners and is used to brief finance ministers attending the FMMs.

In addition, last September SWA launched a publication titled “Water & Sanitation: How to Make Public Investment Work - A Handbook for Finance Ministers”. With this document, SWA wants to offer insights to ministers, and showcase examples from several countries of financial strategies that have proven to be successful.

The sector is far from reaching universal coverage, suffering from under-investment and poor-performance that discourages investment

The handbook makes the case for country investments in water and sanitation, as they provide strong returns: a four-fold return for every dollar invested. Meanwhile, the economic losses associated with inadequate services amount to an annual loss of 1.5% of the global GDP. Furthermore, most of the targets of SDG 6 link with other targets across the 2030 Agenda. But the sector is far from reaching universal coverage, suffering from under-investment and a record of poor-performance that discourages further investment in a vicious cycle.

However, lack of funding is not the only cause of the problems of the water and sanitation sector. The decisions and the policies by ministries of finance can have a significant impact, and the case studies in the handbook illustrate this point. The document outlines critical intervention areas that have the potential to mobilise resources into the water and sanitation sector. It maintains that attracting investment depends on a country’s ability to address key elements such as the regulatory environment, the governance structure, the performance of service providers, and the perception of risk by investors.

Water, sanitation and hygiene services in Africa

© UNICEF/Dejongh. Burkina Faso, 2020. A mother is washing the hands of her baby, in the health center of Kaya, in the North of Burkina Faso.

Data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene indicate that in Sub-Saharan Africa only 61% of the total population of more than 1 billion live in households with at least basic drinking water services. The data is from 2017, the last year for which data is available. The JMP defines basic drinking water services as “drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time is not more than 30 minutes for a roundtrip including queuing”. Concerning sanitation, only 31% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa have at least basic sanitation services at home. In this case, basic services are defined as “improved facilities which are not shared with other households”. What about hygiene? Only 25% of households in the region have basic services, meaning a handwashing facility on premises with soap and water. The figures for service levels in Northern Africa and Western Asia are much higher, but there is work to be done to reach universal coverage: 92% of a population of 500 million have at least basic drinking services, while 88% have at least basic sanitation services, and 77% have access to basic hygiene.

The document outlines critical intervention areas that have the potential to mobilise resources into the water and sanitation sector

What is the situation currently? Even though the coronavirus pandemic has not had as severe an impact in Africa as in other continents, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) warns that more than 40% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to clean water to wash their hands to stop the virus from spreading. In fact, other diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A are widespread wherever access to WASH services is limited. The AfDB calls member states and development partners to prioritise WASH service delivery as part of any post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

SWA Africa Ministers’ Meeting

© UNICEF/Abdul. Uganda, 2019. Louse Joseph, a plumber, opens the water and gate valve at Nabilatuk H/C IV, Kaabong District.

The Africa Ministers’ Meeting has been the first of the three regional Finance Ministers’ Meetings organised by SWA, held as a virtual event on November 4. Catarina de Albuquerque, Chief Executive Officer of SWA, introduced the event, followed by some opening remarks from high officials from UNICEF, the WHO, and the World Bank. After that the Hon. Kevin Rudd, High-Level Chair of SWA and former Prime minister of Australia, set the global political context, making the social, political and economic case for investment in water, sanitation and hygiene, highlighting the role of the ministers of finance.

In Sub-Saharan Africa only 61% of the population of more than 1 billion live in households with at least basic drinking water services

Next, Wambui Gichuri, Acting Vice president for Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the Africa Development Bank, provided a regional context for Africa, including the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on water, sanitation and hygiene services in the continent. The ensuing panel discussion offered an opportunity to hear about noteworthy practices from different countries, moderated by Dr Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary at the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), with the participation of ministers from Zimbabwe, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Eritrea, as well as John Barsa, Acting Administrator of USAID.

Afterwards, Catarina de Albuquerque introduced a session where representatives from SWA’s private sector constituency, research and learning constituency, and civil society constituency had the chance to present messages to ministers of finance, and offer them their support. Subsequently, Ms de Albuquerque brought the discussion to a close and handed the floor to the Hon Cecilia Dapaah, Vice President (West Africa), AMCOW and Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Ghana, for some concluding remarks. Finally, Patrick Moriarty, Chair of the SWA Steering Committee, thanked all participants and closed the meeting.

The following are some take-home messages from the event:

  • There are creative ways to finance WASH services: now there is a political opportunity to ensure a good response to the COVID-19 crisis, while creating jobs and small business, at the same time that future economic losses due to inadequate services are prevented.
  • We have to find a way to show progress in the WASH sector, communicating with WASH indicators. The WASH sector offers the opportunity to address waterborne diseases with a preventive approach, rather than a curative approach.
  • The sector is in need of strong, high-level, visionary political leadership. We must find ways to make the sector investable. Creating strong and investable WASH systems and mobilise the necessary finance to do it is at the heart of SWA.

What’s next? The Latin America and the Caribbean regional meeting was held on November 18 and the third and final regional meeting (Asia and the Pacific) will be held on December 2. You can find further information and the recorded sessions of past meetings on the website of Sanitation and Water for All.

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