Report reveals alarming truth

01 July 2016, 12:00AM

Almost 70per cent of people living in Samoa and the Pacific are without access to improved sanitation. What’s more, almost 50per cent lack access to improved drinking water supplies.

That’s what a regional report titled “Sanitation, Drinking-water and Health in Pacific Island Countries: 2015 update and future outlook” has found. 

Heads of agencies were quick to share their sentiments when the report was launched. Dr. Liu Yunguo, W.H.O Representative for the South Pacific based in Suva, said: “We are very pleased to launch this milestone report in collaboration with other UN agencies and the Pacific Community.”

 “The report is a highly significant contribution to guide the Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.Gs) implementation in the Pacific,” said Dr. Karen Allen, U.N.I.C.E.F Pacific Representative.  “The report sheds light on the unique and challenging situation facing many Pacific people who don’t have access to safe water and sanitation which hadn’t been thoroughly analysed or discussed in global reports on the Millennium Development Goals,” said Dr. Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General of the Pacific Community.

 “The report takes an unprecedented approach. Where possible it provides disaggregated analysis of urban and rural access to Water and Sanitation; it further highlights the challenge of providing such services in urban informal settlements and peri-urban areas” said Mr. Yoshinobu Fukasawa, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, UN-Habitat.

This report reviews the status and challenges of sanitation, drinking water and hygiene in Pacific Island countries. 

Data in the report shows a not-so-positive outlook on the situation and trends of water and sanitation in the Pacific.  Jose Hueb, the lead author of the report and W.H.O consultant said “Improvements in W.A.S.H were observed in the urban areas, leaving rural areas behind. The gaps between the urban and rural areas are even greater in 2015 than in 1990.”

The report also notes that the Pacific region’s M.D.G sanitation access target of 65% and drinking water access target of 73% by 2015 were not reached. Regional sanitation coverage was only 31% in 2015, while the drinking water target was only 53%.

As 2015 was the final year of Millennium Development Goals (M.D.Gs), this report is considered a milestone publication providing benchmarks  and a situation overview for W.A.S.H, and setting the scene for future development of water and sanitation in the Pacific island countries.   

Rhonda Robinson, Water and Sanitation Programme Deputy Director of the Pacific Community stressed, “While all Pacific island countries are working to provide their citizens with access to safe water and sanitation, these efforts are in general not keeping pace with population growth.

The report also addresses the challenges of water security and safety as a critical sustainable development issue for Pacific island countries. The impacts of climate change on the quantity and quality of water resources have profound implications for lives and livelihoods, economic growth, public health, the environment and human rights in the small island states.

 “This report indicates a huge challenge ahead of us in providing support to the Pacific in achieving the targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for universal access to improved drinking-water and sanitation facilities.

These new targets will be achievable only with a radical recalibration of efforts by the Pacific and development partners, particularly in the light of projected population increases and climate change impacts in the coming years,” said Dr. Rokho Kim, Environmental Specialist of W.H.O South Pacific who coordinated with the team as managing editor. 

Marc Overmars, U.N.I.C.E.F Pacific W.A.S.H Coordinator elaborated further when he said: “Climate change is a defining challenge of our time and could prove to be the most significant human health threat of the 21st century. Coordinated efforts of many different sectors are urgently needed to build water security and health resilience to climate change in the Pacific.”

This is the first time that three UN agencies (U.N.I.C.E.F, W.H.O and United Nations Human Settlements Programme) and S.P.C have produced a joint report on water and sanitation in the Pacific. 

A total of 14 Pacific Island Countries were studied: Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

01 July 2016, 12:00AM

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