DfID's investment in water and sanitation, a trickle in the budget?

Glenys Kinnock asks: Why is water and sanitation one of the U.K. Department for International Development’s smallest investment portfolios?

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Kinnock, president of One World Action and board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said she understands that DfID is “checking” its water and sanitation programs for value for money. But she is concerned the department does not seem to be leading by example in the water and sanitation fight.

Kinnock, also Lords’ labor spokesperson on international development, explains her predicament in numbers: 

  • Less than 2 percent of total U.K. bilateral aid in 2010 was for sanitation and water.

  • The proportion of U.K. bilateral aid for water and sanitation is only one-third of Germany’s and Spain’s.

  • The United Kingdom contributes less than 50 percent of the average bilateral aid reported by other donors in the water sector.

  • In 2010, the country’s new commitments to water and sanitation amounted to just $66.3 million — a big drop from the previous year’s $252 million.

  • None of DfID’s 3 percent development aid in Ghana goes to sanitation.

  • None of DfID’s programs in Pakistan is directed to sanitation.

Addressing the world’s water and sanitation problems are critical to meeting the United Nation’s other Millennium Development Goals, including maternal and child health, education and gender. And Kinnock knows there is no “quick fix” to these problems. But she says DfID “can and should” shoulder a greater share of the burden on these sectors.

Kinnock said the government needs to have a firm commitment to improve on its record — especially since nearly 800 million still do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.