Sanitation in the Developing World July 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding access to clean water and sanitation in the developing world [and the related WaterAid campaign].

I believe that international development is the pursuit of social justice and human rights and I therefore agree it is vital that the international community does everything possible to improve access to clean water supplies and sanitation.

In 2001, UN member states adopted eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One of these goals was to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. According to the UN, this target was met in 2010. UNICEF and the World Health Organisation have also stated that between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources.

The previous Labour Government had a proud record of leadership on international development, having led the world to agree the MDGs and tripled the aid budget, which helped improve water and sanitation services for millions of people.

However, there are still 663 million people, around the world, using unimproved drinking water sources. I share your concern there are still so many people that do not have access to clean water. I therefore welcome the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have replaced the MDGs, and include the goal of universal access to water and sanitation.

The UK provided access to clean water for 5.8 million people in 2014/15. The Government is committed to help a further 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation by 2020. I welcome this commitment. However, I believe it is crucial that water, sanitation and hygiene are integrated into Government plans to help achieve other goals - for example on poverty, hunger, education and gender equality. I would also like the Government to integrate water, sanitation and hygiene into relevant health and nutrition programmes. It is clear that water, sanitation and hygiene are enablers for and signifiers of different types of development and I therefore believe the UK Government should prioritise these areas and increase the proportion of UK bilateral aid that goes to water, sanitation and hygiene. I hope the Government will consider this as part of its Bilateral Aid Review.

More widely, I am concerned that the Government is looking for ways to divert the international development budget to other uses such as security, rather than solely for international development. I believe that a genuine international development budget should prioritise sustainable economic development and help improve lives, including by helping to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. I can assure you I will continue to hold the Government to account on development and press for the correct use of the international aid budget to improve the lives of millions around the world.