When the Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015, the water, sanitation and hygiene sector faced a challenge. The sector was preoccupied with installing pumps, pipes and toilets. People seldom paused to ask if these were delivering the desired results: in fact, they weren’t. At any given time, 30% of infrastructure for rural water supply in Africa isn’t working. What’s more, much of the water being consumed isn’t safe to drink.
The conversation had to change, if we were to have any chance of meeting the ambitious sustainable development goals for water and sanitation (SDG 6). Getting safe water to everyone means strengthening the systems that deliver those services: not just infrastructure, but also the people, partnerships, incentives, laws and policies that make it work. Political buy-in and collective action, people working together to achieve common aims, are essential to addressing the world’s toughest challenges. Success relies on many different people and organisations – from service users to local utility managers – all delivering their part.
The climate emergency now also demands stonger systems in water and sanitation. These services must be at the centre of any climate adaptation and build the resilience of communities and societies.
We need everyone involved to embark on a common path focused on systems strengthening. That's why we support districts in developing and working towards a shared vision, backed up with goals and a plan – a district WASH master plan.