International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

World Water Day 2016

Half the world’s working population relies on water as a fundamental part of their jobs.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial to life on earth. The provision of water for consumption, as well as meeting needs in agriculture and industry, is instrumental in the jobs and livelihoods of over 1.5 billion people – half the world’s working population.

Work around water has a major impact on peoples’ lives and is a significant factor in sustaining the global economy. Here, as in many other aspects of daily life, there are huge inequalities. For many people, water is a job, and often a gruelling one. In many developing countries, the burden of provision falls primarily on women and children who may have to travel several kilometres each day to find a reliable water source. Moreover, lack of sanitation facilities at home can also create risks to security and dignity, especially for women. Similarly, the lack of water and hygiene facilities at schools can adversely affect girls and young women who often miss school when menstruating.

These basic needs are not luxuries; they are human rights. As part of the sustainable development goals, equitable and sustainable access to water and sanitation must be available to improve lives and make time available for attending school or enabling income generation.

In this way, water and sanitation will have a positive impact on sustainable economic growth, especially within the sector itself. This might include local entrepreneurs providing products such as low-cost locally manufactured sanitation solutions or technical services such as water supply repair or waste removal.

Although this is already a growth industry, inequalities still persist in pay, working conditions and career development. Many people still do not recognize the value that qualified and competent water and sanitation service providers bring to a community.

By Uli Jaspers, Team Leader of water, sanitation and hygiene, IFRC.

What can we do better?

Certainly we need to maintain, and increase our efforts to reach the sustainable development goals to reach 30 million people with sustainable water and sanitation by 2025. This will contribute to easing the drudgery on many women and children. Within this process must be further encouragement for job creation, training and career development. 

These goals can only be achieved with the active support of communities, local entrepreneurs, governments and others involved in water provision. We must find new – more effective – ways of working in partnership with others, and seek out better ways of providing long-term and equitable incomes for the trained staff that the sector needs.

Together we can not only continue to meet human needs in a dignified and equitable manner, but we can drive sustainable growth. By working in concert with communities, we can improve lives and livelihoods, giving the most vulnerable better opportunities to create new futures for themselves and their families.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world are involved in every aspect of water, sanitation and hygiene.

Water

SDG Target: 100% of people with access to clean water

1990

2012

2015

Sanitation

SDG Target: 100% of people with access to basic sanitation

1990

2012

2015

Water and sanitation around the world

Nepal

Nepal

New partnerships help resolve urban sanitation challenges

Zambia

Zambia

Families and animals now have separate water sources

Cambodia

Cambodia

Safe drinking water and improved sanitation

Myanmar

Myanmar

Access to safe water has been a turning point for communities

Infographics

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International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies