World Water Day 2012
Access to clean water still marked by extreme inequality
Cologne. The recent news that a target under the seventh Millennium Development Goal – to halve the proportion of the global population without access to safe drinking water – has been reached is a reason for celebration on World Water Day. However, Malteser International, the relief service of the Order of Malta for humanitarian aid, calls for going beyond the statistics and focusing on reaching the nearly 800 million people worldwide who are still without a source of clean water.
“The gap between rich and poor is increasing, and this manifests itself also in disparity in access to clean water”, says Arno Coerver, Malteser International’s regional Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) coordinator in Asia. “Without a change in policy in how investments are made in the water sector, a large group of people is likely to be left out of receiving the necessary services for the foreseeable future”.
According to a recent report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources from 1990 to 2010 – currently, 89% of the global population has access to safe drinking water. The rapid economic growth in countries like India and China has contributed to this trend. However, this development has been extremely unequal in different regions, with only 61% of the Sub-Saharan population having access to improved water sources.
Malteser International has successfully supported water projects for marginalised communities in 11 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The organisation’s approach is to provide safe water and sanitation in simple, cost-effective ways to as many people as possible and where the need is greatest.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, where only 50% of the population has access to an improved water source, Malteser International provides safe drinking water at health centres and hospitals in South Kivu – that way, the risks of waterborne infections among those who are most vulnerable to diseases can be reduced. “In the region, cholera is still endemic – even in areas with supposedly safe access to water”, says Dr. Lothar Winkler, medical coordinator for Malteser International in DR Congo.
In order to prevent unequal access to safe drinking water, governments and organisations in the water sector should improve their targeting of water and sanitation resources. “It is important to favour a pro-poor approach while planning projects in this sector”, Coerver says.
Attention editors: Arno Coerver, regional WASH coordinator for Malteser International in Asia, is available for interviews. Contact through Malteser International’s headquarters at +49 (0) 221 98 22-169.
Click here for more information on Malteser International’s WASH projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in about 100 projects in more than 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For further information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int