By Spera Atuhairwe
On September 25 2015, the UN General Assembly signed the post 2015 sustainable development goals to end extreme poverty and create a fairer, more sustainable planet.
The 17 Global Goals on sustainable development aim to tackle extreme poverty, inequalities and climate change, including the water and sanitation crisis which kills half a million young children each year from preventable diarrhoeal diseases.
To some extent, all countries have made political and financial commitments to sanitation and drinking-water since 2010. However, majority have failed to meet their own national commitment targets with 83% and 70% of countries falling significantly behind the trends required to meet their defined national access targets for sanitation and drinking-water, respectively (UN-Water, 2012).
The inclusion of Global Goal 6 which commits UN member-states to deliver basic access to water, sanitation and hygiene to everyone, everywhere by 2030 is a victory for more than 10 million people in the Uganda today who cannot easily access clean water for domestic use and 6 million people without access to a secure, private toilet facility.
According to a recent report by WaterAid, Essential Element, Uganda is one of 45 developing countries all over the world that are facing chronical underfunding for water, sanitation and hygiene services. In Uganda, 31 per cent of households do not have access to clean water and 19 per cent do not have access to sanitation.
The impact of the lack of safe water and sanitation on Uganda’s economic growth cannot be underestimated: The livelihoods of adult Ugandans would be much better without the cost in both time and money of hospital treatment of diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera that come from poor sanitation.
The gender question cannot be underplayed; the burden of home care including walking long distances to collect water, taking care of babies and preparing food for the family rests squarely on women and girls. Even so because of their monthly menstruation cycle, women and girls are naturally inclined to suffer indignity and the risk of infections if they cannot access clean water and a private bathroom.
Further, the academic performance of school-going children especially under the universal primary and secondary education government programmes would definitely thrive if the minimum standard of separate latrine for boys and girls, and a limit of 40 children per latrine stance would be adhered to.
Water, sanitation and hygiene are fundamental to development and by delivering these essential services, the lives of millions of people will be transformed.
Including the ambitious Goal 6 and signing the protocol of post 2015 SDGs are milestones worth celebrating; however, their achievement will only be dependent on new political and financial prioritisation of water, sanitation and hygiene services.
As Uganda joins the rest of the world to sign this protocol, it is important for government to;
- Put in place indicators to monitor progress for access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in homes, schools and healthcare facilities;
- Implore donor countries and foreign investors to give sufficient priority to water, sanitation and hygiene in their programming; and
- Deliver on their promise of ensuring the constitutional right of the Ugandan people to safe water, sanitation and hygiene through budget financing and service delivery.
The unprecedented world commitment to end poverty and the promise of a world where everyone everywhere has access to water, sanitation and hygiene at all times by 2030 is an unpassable opportunity to change the course of history in our time.
The writer is the country representative, WaterAid Uganda
Keep the promise to deliver on Global Goal 6 post 2015 SDGs