For many people around the world, it is simply impossible to imagine life without easy access to safe drinking water or a toilet, yet the lack of such basic amenities is still a fact of life for too many in the global South. While it is true that transformational change in the provision of basic services has been achieved in some countries over the past 15 years, millions remain without access to water and sanitation.
Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor
In towns and cities, local service providers have struggled to keep pace with unprecedented population growth. Discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have reflected the urgency of focusing greater attention on the needs of low-income urban residents. Between 2010 and 2050, the urban population of Africa is projected to increase from 400 million to 1.26 billion, and by 2035, 50 per cent of the continent's total population is expected to be living in urban areas. Many of the people migrating to such areas will have no choice but to move to low-income communities that lack access to the most basic of services.
In my role as Country Programme Manager for Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), I have seen first-hand the scale of the challenge in Madagascar, my home country. Madagascar is among the poorest countries in Africa, with one of the world's highest rates of extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, 92 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 per day.
Across the country, around 50 per cent of the population has access to an improved water source. Access is certainly higher in urban areas but this masks the fact that many city residents have to travel long distances or stand in line for hours to purchase water. Faced with this option, it's not surprising that many urban residents end up using contaminated water sources that are closer to home, risking their own health and that of their families.
Each month, the urban population in Madagascar grows by 33,000. As the population becomes increasingly city-based, the focus of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All (WASH) challenge will gradually shift away from rural needs towards solving urban problems.
I joined WSUP in 2007 at the onset of our programme in Madagascar, which at that time was focused entirely on the capital city, Antananarivo (Tana). Like many capital cities in the global South, Tana has experienced massive population growth over the past decade, with the majority of its new...