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The report provides an overarching recommendation for the development of national capacity development strategies that have high-level political buy-in with involvement from multiple actors to ensure sustained, adequate professional and technical capacity.

TitleAn avoidable crisis : WASH human resource capacity gaps in 15 developing economies
Publication TypeResearch Report
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSaywell, D, de Vette, K
Pagination56 p. : 3 boxes, 8 fig.,, 1 tab.
Date Published09/2014
PublisherInternational Water Association (IWA)
Place PublishedThe Hague, The Netherlands
Publication LanguageEnglish

This report presents the outcomes of the Human Resources Capacity Gap study (HRCG) on the status of national human resources and professional
competencies (knowledge, skills and experience) to deliver drinking water and sanitation services, and hygiene promotion (WASH). The study was performed in 15 countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Lao PDR, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Timor Leste and Zambia.

The report provides an overarching recommendation for the development of national capacity development strategies that have high-level political buy-in with involvement from multiple actors to ensure sustained, adequate professional and technical capacity. The report also calls for concerted action at regional and global level to collect relevant human resources data, and perform further research to strengthen the evidence base on which action plans and strategies can be built.

Some important findings are:

  • In 10 countries reviewed there was a shortfall of 778,000 trained water and sanitation professionals needed to reach universal coverage
  • Mozambique needs to double the number of trained water professionals, an additional 11,900 people. 62% of the shortfall was in the sanitation sector;
  • 98% of Ghana's human resource shortfall was in the sanitation sector;
  • Women are massively underrepresented in the sector, on average on 16.7% of the water and sanitation sector workforce in 15 countries was female;
  • Bangladesh, a country close to achieving MDG water and sanitation targets, requires an additional 44,000 water sector professionals to reach universal coverage.

Key conclusions of the research include:

  • Investment in the WASH sector, apart from its easily perceptible knock-on effect of improved access to water and sanitation, can also provide a magnet to attract and retain high calibre professionals in the sector.
  • The mismatch between supply (in terms of the shortage in numbers and deficiencies in skills of professionals and vocational staff entering the job market) and demand (the numbers and skills of human resources required) is one of the key factors significantly undermining the sustainability of achievements in the WASH sector.
  • Appropriate public policies need to be in place to support job creation, which involves investing in skills to support labour supply and enabling private sector engagement to stimulate an increase in labour demand.
  • There is a need for incentives and motivations to attract newly qualified and skilled personnel, and to retain experienced personnel within the sector and reverse a professional drain to other sectors. 
  • Low levels of access to and inadequate coverage of courses in tertiary education institutes make up significant bottlenecks to meeting human resource demands; professional vocational training institutes may help in meeting these demands. 
  • Operation and maintenance of water and sanitation systems are chronically and universally under-resourced, in financial and human terms. Appropriate training, education and skills requirements to operate and maintain specific technologies need appropriate assessment to significantly benefit the sector.
Citation Key81332


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