Tens of millions denied access to clean water as cash for projects is not paid out
Almost £11bn of life-saving aid has gone “missing” over the past decade – a sum that could have provided around 100 million of the world’s poorest people with access to clean water and basic sanitation.
World aid donors pledged to spend £34bn of water and sanitation aid between 2002 and 2010 but only released £23bn of it, according to a new report by WaterAid and Development Initiatives, Addressing the Shortfall, to be published next week. More than two and a half billion people do not have access to safe sanitation – around a third of the world’s population – and almost 800 million go without access to clean drinking water.
The accumulated shortfall of £11bn could have provided clean water to one in seven of those most in need. The report’s analysis of Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) figures shows that, on average, 30 per cent of water and sanitation aid, per year, was never released, or was not accounted for. More than a quarter of UK aid, or £192m, was not disbursed.
Sanjay Wijesekera, a former advisor to the Department for International Development (Dfid) and now chief of Unicef’s water and sanitation programme in New York, said he was “staggered” by the “scale of the problem uncovered by the report. Particularly, when one considers the cost in terms of the numbers of children who die every day due to inadequate water, sanitation and poor hygiene.”
More than 2,000 children under the age of five die daily because of a lack of clean water and safe sanitation; water-related diarrhoea is one of the biggest killers of children in sub-Saharan Africa.
The study shows that major multilateral donors such as the World Bank, the African Development Fund and European institutions disbursed only 76 per cent, 68 per cent and 63 per cent of water and sanitation funds, respectively, during the period. Others, such as the United Nations Development Fund, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and Unicef released all of their committed aid, and more besides.
Japan, one of the largest national donors of water aid, ranked low on a league table of what was actually handed over, after failing to distribute more than £3.7bn in aid that it had earmarked. Italy and Korea released less than half of their water and sanitation aid, while donors such as Switzerland, Norway and Sweden allocated between 90 to 94 per cent of their commitments. Some countries such as Spain, Australia and Greece released more than they pledged. On average, donors reporting to the OECD released less than 70 per cent of all committed water and sanitation funds over the 2002-2010 period.