Water: Human Right and Lifesaver

According to the WHO, almost a quarter of all health facilities in the world's poorest countries has no access to clean water. The coronavirus pandemic reveals the catastrophic consequences. Austrian Development Cooperation helps to find ways out of the water crisis.

Handwashing with soap for 30 seconds: Hygiene measures against the coronavirus, which are being promoted worldwide, demonstrate that washing your hands regularly can literally save lives. Proper hand hygiene can reduce the risks of getting infected and, at the same time, can contain the globally increasing COVID-19 infection rate. #SafeHands is also the slogan of this year’s World Water Day. Every year on the 22nd of March, the United Nations raises awareness of the importance of clean water for sustainable development.

Since its foundation 16 years ago, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, has been promoting a similar message. “785 million people worldwide still live without access to clean, drinkable water. That amounts to more than one in ten people and this simply has to change. The right to water is a human right. The spread of the coronavirus makes it clear once again what disastrous effects the lack of access to water and sanitation can have, especially in developing countries. We will continue our work to change that,” says ADA’s Managing Director, Martin Ledolter.

The acronym "WASH" ​​is the collective term for water, sanitation and hygiene. In this sector, ADA is currently funding 24 projects totalling 26.3 million euros. This way, ADA supports refugees and host communities in Uganda and Lebanon, to name only two project examples. New water tanks, latrine blocks and hygiene trainings help local people to cope with the precarious situation. Austrian Development Cooperation is investing 750,000 euros in these two initiatives benefitting over 17,000 people. In both cases, the Austrian Red Cross is the project partner.

In addition, a strategic partnership between ADA and the Austrian Red Cross worth almost 3 million euros encourages innovations, expertise and cooperation in the WASH sector in East Africa. 30 water and sanitation projects will be implemented in Ethiopia and Uganda within a period of five years. By 2023, they will improve the living conditions of around 12,000 people.

On World Water Day, all eyes are on SDG6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The international community strives for universal and equal access to clean water by 2030. There is no time to spare: According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2025 half of the world's population will live in regions without safe access to drinking water. On top of that, the spread of the coronavirus threatens to bring already weak health care systems in the world's poorest countries to a halt. 22 percent of health facilities in least developed countries (LDCs) are forced to operate without water. The consequences for local people are fatal.