• logo linkedin
  • logo email
AFD, Cambodia, Water and Sanitation, Gender, Inequality, World Water Week
To mark World Water Week from 25 to 30 August in Stockholm, Céline Robert, Head of the Water and Sanitation Division at Agence Française de Développement, explains the main global challenges concerning this vital resource.
Céline Robert, AFD, Water and Sanitation
© Gil Lefauconnier / AFD

What are the main issues of World Water Week this year? 

Every year, World Water Week focuses on a major theme chosen by the UN. Last year’s topic was nature-based solutions. In 2019, we turn to the question of reducing inequality: how to ensure the world’s most vulnerable people have access to clean water and adequate sanitation

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number Six aims to achieve universal access to quality water and sanitation services by 2030.

Water is a crucial issue for the planet that requires a global mobilization: 2.1 billion people still do not have access to safely managed water services and 4.5 billion do not benefit from adequate sanitation. 

The situation is of particular concern in Sub-Saharan Africa, where only 27% of the population has access to quality water services. That figure falls to 18% for sanitation.

Climate change and human consumption are putting increasing pressure on water resources. It is estimated that in 2050 over half the world’s population will face water shortages at least once a year. 

To meet these challenges, more human and financial resources will have to be invested, and water management systems need to be improved. 

What are the causes and effects of unequal access to water? 

Inequalities in access to water and sanitation are to be found at several levels: between countries, between rural and urban areas, and between city centers and underserved neighborhoods.  

The most vulnerable populations are hardest hit. Some areas lacking public water services have informal systems, which can cost five to ten times the price – even though there is no guarantee the water is drinkable.

The lack of access to water and sanitation puts an even greater burden on women and girls. The long distances they must travel to obtain drinkable water can be difficult and dangerous. 

Schools often lack toilets and menstrual hygiene products, which has an adverse effect on the attendance and academic performance of young girls going through puberty. 

Only 45% of health centers in the least developed countries are equipped with basic water services, with major consequences for child and maternal health.

What issues will be highlighted by Agence Française de Développement this year? 

For World Water Week in Stockholm, the delegation for AFD and its subsidiary PROPARCO will focus on five themes: gender inequality (and menstrual hygiene); improving water resources using nature-based solutions; the financial tools necessary to achieve SDG Number 6; advances in governance and water management; and access to water in the Sahel region. 

It’s in this context that the partnership with NGO The Nature Conservancy was signed on 28 August. 

World Water Week gives us the chance to meet our partners, keep each other informed about our projects and learn about the latest innovations.

AFD’s action in water and sanitation is gathering pace: between 2014 and 2018, €1 billion were allocated annually on average to finance new projects, i.e. 10% of the total amount committed by AFD Group. This investment is expected to produce considerable results: more than 5 million people will benefit from improved water and sanitation services thanks to the projects approved by AFD in 2018.