Water, the humanitarian for achieving SDG 6

July 15, 2015 – UN house, POC 2 IDP camp, Juba, South Sudan. Moussa, an IDP employed by SI as a day laborer, collects water to clean his container, while a young girl prepares to clean hers. @VincentTremeau/SolidaritesInternational

Global water crisis: leaving no one behind

The observation is made at the outset in the Vision Statement of the UN Water Conference (UN23): “The current water and sanitation crisis is a threat to all”, and yet the expression of this observation does not seem to produce sufficient transformative actions. Certainly, for the actors of the sector, the message is not new, as well as the protean character of the water crisis, which impacts at different levels all societies and all environments, and whose stakes are at the same time technical, political, economic or social. Nevertheless, it is appropriate, as far as we are concerned, to underline the particular situation of the most fragile contexts, those prey to the convergence of crises (climatic, human, sanitary, political, etc.) and for which the urgency to act is becoming more and more pressing if we wish to reach the ambitions that we have collectively set. Among these fragile states, which represent 23% of the world’s population (OECD, 2022), there are even more fragile states, in which humanitarian crises often make their bed. The inevitable increase in humanitarian needs (estimated at 339 million people in 2023[1], a record high), and consequently the investments needed to meet them is a constant reminder of this reality. If we want to “Leave No One Behind” then we must redouble [2] our efforts to reach these contexts.In many of these countries, where Solidarités International is present (82% of the NGO’s countries of intervention are considered fragile or extremely fragile by the OECD), the cumulative effects of prolonged crises and insufficient access to safely managed water and sanitation services are killing[3] and severely inhibiting the emergence of conditions conducive to sustainable and resilient development.

Collecting water in Mauritania. @SolidaritesInternational

Les acteurs WASH humanitaires, garant de l’ODD6 en zone de crise

In response to these crises, humanitarian WASH actors have been working for decades in complex settings to alleviate acute needs in accordance with humanitarian principles and often with insufficient resources. The sector suffers from chronic underfunding[4],Lack of capacity, expertise, and sometimes a lack of preparation, making them unable to respond adequately to all crises, humanitarians often remain the only front-line actors during crises, in the absence of an institutional or state response that is equal to the challenges. On the other hand, the sector has taken note of these shortcomings and is organizing itself to address them through the implementation of structural initiatives led by a group of actors representing the diversity of the sector (https://www.washroadmap.org/). In addition, recognizing the importance of humanitarian WASH actions to ensure the achievement of SDG 6, a Call to Action was developed and widely disseminated to engage governments, donors and policy makers on the critical issue of humanitarian WASH in the lead-up to the NY conference and beyond. Because water issues are cross-cutting, multi-sectoral, and trans-disciplinary, they are both a vector of opportunity across the spectrum of sustainable development goals, but also diluted, and therefore lack strong political consideration. States and international institutions do not sufficiently measure the efforts required, nor do they sufficiently assume their responsibilities in this regard. In particular, humanitarian WASH priorities are not very visible at major forums and events in the sector, so it is important to stand together and deliver clear and mobilizing messages, which is the role of the “Call To Action”.

Construction of an emergency water tower in Gargando, Mali, December 2021. @SolidaritesInternational

SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL takes its fight for water to the New York Conference

Solidarités International is one of the signatories of the CTA, and wishes to bring this advocacy to the New York Conference. Through our actions in the field in favor of access to water and sanitation for the poorest, we are carrying this commitment to more than a million people in 22 countries. We are developing projects that respond to the most urgent needs caused by the shocks faced by the populations we assist, but also to strengthen their resilience in the face of crises in the long term5 . This is the case, for example, with our Nex’Eau project in Burkina Faso, in partnership with GRET, Groupe URD, ONEA, AFD and USAID, which aims to provide 70,000 people with access to a securely managed water supply service (Indicator 6.1.1) and 220,000 people with access to a basic water supply service. Our actions effectively contribute to the achievement of SDG 6 and the Water targets: in Yemen, a three-year project funded by the Swiss Cooperation (SDC) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contributes to the achievement of 10 water-related goals under 6 different SDGs[6].

Because access to safe water and sanitation services contributes to the reduction of poverty or gender inequalities, to the improvement of health and education, guaranteeing this access to populations affected by crises allows them to move from survival to economic and social development.

Finally, Solidarités International has always made the fight against water-related diseases, particularly cholera, one of its priorities. After an unprecedented resurgence of the disease, which led to more than 29 countries reporting cholera cases or outbreaks in 2022, the organization decided to re-emphasize the importance of ending cholera in order to achieve SDG6 by organizing an official side event at the UN Water Conference23, with the main active partners of this collective commitment. The global roadmap to eradicate cholera by 2030, which forms the basis of this side event, has been approved as a Voluntary Commitment of the Water Action Agenda.

Baptiste Lecuyot

Baptiste Lecuyot is Head of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Unit at Solidarités International. He holds an engineering degree in water science and technology from the engineering school Polytech’ Montpellier, France. He worked for five years in the private water and sanitation sector in France, notably as a sanitation project manager in a public works company. After graduating from Bioforce, he worked for three years as a WASH program manager for international organizations in South Sudan and the Middle East, and for two and a half years as the WASH coordinator of Solidarités International’s emergency response team in more than a dozen contexts. He is now responsible for implementing and developing Solidarités International’s WASH strategy, supporting research and innovation projects, and representing Solidarités International in major industry forums and events.

[1] According to the Global Humanitarian Needs Outlook for 2023 (available at https://humanitarianaction.info/)

[2] In fact, according to the Joint Monitoring Program reports, in fragile contexts, efforts need to be multiplied by 23, 9 and 5 to achieve universal access to safely managed water and sanitation services and basic hygiene services respectively. The situation is even more critical in Africa, where rates of progress must reach 12, 20 and 42 for water, sanitation and hygiene respectively.

[3] Globally, in 2016, 1.9 million deaths and 123 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) could have been prevented by adequate WASH services – from “Water, sanitation, hygiene and health: a primer for health professionals. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019 (WHO/CED/PHE/WSH/19.149).”

[4]  Looking at emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) funds alone, funds disbursed have covered an average of only 38% of needs over the past 10 years (2012-2021), with the lowest rate ever in 2021 and 2020, at 22% and 21% of required funding, respectively (Source: OCHA – Fine Tracking Serviceancier)

[5] See the organization’s EAH strategy : https://www.solidarites.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/strategie-eau-assainissement-hygiene-2020-2025-SOLIDARITES-INTERNATIONAL.pdf

[6] Analysis performed with the Water4AllSDG application (https://water4allsdgs.org/) developed by the French Water Partnership.















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