Quenching the developing world’s thirst

A woman drinks from a public fountain at a village in Assab Eritrea. Photo by: Jean-Paul Heerschap / EuropeAid

Progress toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation are off track. The United Nations itself has predicted: These targets will not be met by the internationally agreed-upon deadline in 2015.

Lack of progress in this area can be attributed to various factors, including poor policies and the low priority afforded water and sanitation projects compared with those in other areas of development. That’s not to say donors are not spending on efforts to improve the developing world’s access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

Among members of the Organization for Economic Development’s Development Assistance Committee, Japan was the top spender on water and sanitation projects in 2010, the last year comprehensive data is available. The country committed a total of $2.1 billion in bilateral aid and multilateral contributions to the sector; top recipients were Iraq, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Mauritius, according to a newly published report by WaterAid, a nongovernmental organization.

The next top spender is Germany ($1.1 billion), followed by France ($775.4 million). The latter committed the bulk of its 2010 budget for the sector to projects in the Dominican Republic, Cameroon and Gabon.

Rounding out the list of top 10 donors to the water and sanitation sector were the United States ($608.9 million), Spain ($439.8 million), the United Kingdom ($424.6 million), the Netherlands ($267.7 million), Italy ($213.1 million), South Korea ($204 million) and Denmark ($137.1 million).

Iraq  the top recipient of Japanese water-related aid  was also the overall top destination of official development assistance targeting water and sanitation issues. Next on the list were Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan. Sub-Saharan African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Senegal also received significant amounts of aid in 2010.

Does this list match the list of countries with the highest number of people lacking access to water and sanitation? No. According to the United Nations, China is home to the most people lacking safe drinking water, followed by India, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Indonesia. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Sudan and Kenya round out the top 10.

India, meanwhile, tops the list of places with the highest number of people without proper sanitation. Also on the list are China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now, more than ever, is an ideal time to raise and discuss water issues in development: Thousands of water experts and aid workers are convening this week in Sweden as part of World Water Week, a major conference on water issues in development. More than 700,000 people that have yet to enjoy their right to safe drinking water await results.

Read our previous DevTrivia.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.