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Access to Water and Sanitation for All

As prepared for delivery


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the World Bank. I am very pleased to be here to welcome you to this event on water and sanitation, at the beginning of the World Bank Spring Meetings.


Water and sanitation. These are two basic services which all of us need every day.


They are services the developed world takes for granted…but in the developing world are often sadly lacking. It’s why water and sanitation deserves the attention of the highest policymakers around the world.


So that’s why I wanted very much to be here to welcome you today. While I won’t be able to join the panel discussion, I am very pleased to be able to welcome our distinguished panel of speakers:


·         His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange, and chair of the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation; assistance from the Prince, his personal involvement and generous contributions from the Dutch Government have been most helpful;

·         Hon. Buyelwa Patience Sonjica, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa and Chair of the African Ministers Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), her excellent work in the water and environmental sectors has been well recognized in both South Africa and globally; 

·         His Excellency, Ek Sonn Chan, General Director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, his management has led to a model public water utility that is emulated worldwide;

·         Ms. Gloria Steele, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Global Health, USAID, her contribution in the water and sanitation sector and field support and training of public health officers is well known;

·         Mr. Lars Thunell, IFC’s Executive Vice-President; who will talk later about IFC’s innovative work with the private sector, where so many innovations and solutions originate; and

·         I would like to introduce our incoming Vice President for Sustainable Development, Inger Andersen, who is well known to many of you for her work on the water and sanitation agenda.


We are delighted that Ms. Katty Kay, BBC’s Washington DC correspondent, is our moderator today.


For me, knowing what life is like without easy access to water is not something I just read about – it was my reality for a time in my life.


As a child, living through the Nigerian Biafran war in the late sixties, I was forced to walk for five miles to fetch and carry water for my family. It was an arduous trip – across a mountain – carrying the water in a bucket on my head.


Water is an essential of life. But the sad reality today is that many children in the world still have no choice but to walk miles every day to fetch water for their families.


Today over 884 million people on the globe lack access to safe water. It is surely reason enough for all of us to be sitting here in this room.


What’s even more disturbing is that 40 percent of people around the world today do not have access to proper toilets. For 20% of the world’s people, a field - or indeed any bit of open space on the ground – is their bathroom.


How can we expect to help improve people’s lives when 20 percent of people on the globe defecate in a field. Just think of others walking through the same grounds and immediately it becomes obvious the health challenges this situation poses.


The predictions are we in the world are likely to meet the millennium development goal for water. The goal is to halve the number of people without access to clean water. In order to achieve the goal, global coverage would reach 75% of the world’s population. But drill down to the regional level and it’s a different story – for example in Sub-Saharan Africa only 58% of people will have access to clean water – far below the 75% target.


But the world is on target to miss the millennium development goal on sanitation. It means billions of people are condemned to live in an environment contaminated by fecal matter – and millions of people – especially children under the age of five – will sicken and die from diarrheal disease.


Sanitation should not be a dirty word. It need not be if there’s was more money and commitment to improving people’s access to safe clean toilets…as well of course as safe clean water.


We can all take some comfort from the fact that since 1990, more than 1.6 billion people have gained access to improved water supply. That represents a 13 percent jump in coverage in the developing world, particularly in regions such as East Asia.  In North Africa, piped water supply increased by 20 percent since 1990.


We can achieve dramatic results such as this by a mix of traditional investment and new approaches, proven to be a success. I was the World Bank’s Country Director for and a good example is the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority. The authority has transformed itself over the years into a model utility that serves as a best practice example. We will hear more on that successful case in this session.


We’ve learned in many cases, that you can successfully rapidly increase the number of people with access to water by changing how we finance the investments. Instead of financing the materials used to build the infrastructure, you pay service providers once they have successfully delivered the service.  The Bank’s Output-Based Aid (OBA) trust fund has been piloting this in water with great results.  It works in poor countries, such as Kenya, and it helps governments reach pockets of un-served people in middle income countries such as Morocco.  This approach is spreading fast. It’s now regular practice in the Bank.


 We have also learned that providing services requires more than just providing taps and latrines.  You need to convince people to change their behavior so when there are toilets supplied, people actually use them.


We’ve worked with partners to try and deal with sanitation issues – to try and encourage people to change their behaviors so when there are toilets supplied, people actually use them. Working with colleagues from WaterAid, UNICEF, Plan and other agencies, we developed a new approach. So since 2007, the Bank’s water and sanitation program has supported national and state governments in India, Indonesia and Tanzania apply large scale rural sanitation programs. The program combines promising approaches developed in Bangladesh and Vietnam. It focuses on changing people’s behavior to stop open defecation and it works with local markets to increase access to affordable sanitation options. This support has led to 6.5 million people gaining access to improved sanitation and at a very low cost.


But again…while these gains are great significant pockets of people remain without access.


Africa and other areas like South Asia are lagging….and it’s the people living in those areas that we need to reach.


We know failure to act – failure to try and give more people access to safe water and sanitation -  comes at a high cost.  It’s estimated 1.6 million children die every year from diarrhea, of which 90% is attributable to inadequate sanitation, water supply and hygiene.


But think too of the economic cost. Think too of the productive time lost as women and children walk miles to fetch water.  An estimated 40 billion hours a year are spent collecting water in Sub-Saharan Africa.


The economic costs of poor water supply and sanitation are estimated at 1 percent of GDP for Colombia, El Salvador, Peru and Guatemala.


For its part, the World Bank Group has been increasing its resources to help and in fact one third of all Bank financed projects since 1997 have been water related.


Since 2003, the Bank has tripled its funding of water supply and sanitation to a projected $4.4 billion this year 2010 – through its arm which helps the world’s poorest countries, IDA, the International Development Association and through its lending arm to middle income countries, IBRD.


It’s work that’s helped a country like Burkina Faso. In Ougadougou, in just six years, a water supply project helped triple coverage of clean water to almost 1.5 million people, or nearly 94$ of the population.


In Tanzania, Masai women and their daughters used to walk more than eight kilometers to fetch water from a river each day. Through a Bank financed rural water supply and sanitation project, deep wells were dug in the town of Twatwatwa, the community was organized to manage the equipment and agreed upon fees so they could manage the services. Now women only have to walk a few meters to collect the water – freeing up their time and allowing their daughters to go to school.


We don’t and can’t act alone to deal with this issue. Clearly more funding is needed. The responsibility to ensure access to water and sanitation must be seen as a priority by leaders of both rich and poor countries. So funding – even in these difficult times is needed – as well as sharing knowledge and capacity building.


If all of us in this room today were to do everything right…..and we reached the millennium development goals of 2015 for both water and sanitation – the job would still not be over.


Even if we were to meet those goals, 11% of people on the planet would not have access to adequate water. 23% would not have access to sanitation.


The challenge of reaching these enormous numbers of people may be even greater as they may still be living in difficult situations – in places of extreme water stress and governance like Yemen, extreme poverty as in Sub-Saharan Africa or in conflict or disaster prone areas – just think of the challenges in Haiti today.


 So much remains to be done. But if we try, results can be attained even in the most challenging situations. All of us, not only in room but everybody throughout the world involved in this area, need to work together proactively.

Let us not forget. The impacts of water supply and sanitation do not stop at the tap. They impact across the board – on health, women’s security, education – a latrine for girls at schools helps ensure their attendance in classroom…and water nearby frees up women and children for the daily toil of trekking to obtain water.  The provision of water and sanitation strikes at the very core of the Bank’s mission – to reduce poverty.


Thank you all for your attendance and participation in our battle to ensure that water and improved sanitation are accessible to each and every one of us.  I look forward to our stimulating discussions.


Thank you very much.



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