Three years into the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) era, the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is “on track to achieve universal access by 2030,” according to the 2018 UN SDG6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation.
However, important challenges remain to reach SDG6 in LAC. Safe water and sanitation coverage levels are currently below the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets of achieving improved coverage levels. The statistical (coverage) or administrative information that LAC countries currently access fails to capture the new attributes of the SDGs, especially relating to the quality of services, wastewater treatment, and the adoption of hygiene practices, including hand washing. Moreover, the institutional arrangements along with diminishing sector investments cannot be adequately programmed with the type of information currently available.
While the share of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012, the region’s rapid population growth outpaced the decrease in poverty, resulting in higher number of poor people than before. More specifically, Africa’s urban population is expected to triple in size in the next half century, which is putting pressure on scarce resources in cities, exacerbated by capacity, budget and governance bottlenecks. The densely-populated areas with low levels of water and sanitation services pose a serious threat to public health – cholera epidemics have broken out in urban areas in several African countries in recent years.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) calls for “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water” by 2030, which is quite different from access to an “improved” water source, which has been our primary focus with the Millennium Development Goals. This makes water quality monitoring essential: how can we assess progress towards #SDG6 without knowing whether water is safe to drink?