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Water and Sanitation
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The highest priority for UN-HABITAT's Water and Sanitation programme is improving access to safe water and helping provide adequate sanitation to millions of low-income urban dwellers and measuring that impact. World leaders meeting at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 committed themselves to attaining the Millennium Development Goal 7, target 10 which aims to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg added another target: to halve by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation. Although the task is enormous, it is not insurmountable. Improving access to water and sanitation in low income urban settlements is possible.

In 2000, more than 830 million people in Asia Pacific region did not have access to safe drinking water. More than 2 billion lacked sanitation facilities. This problem is even worse in sub-Saharan Africa where in 2000, over 300 million people in Africa did not have access to safe water and over 500 million were without adequate sanitation. Additionally, low-income urban dwellers have to pay high prices for water sometimes up to 50 times the price paid by higher income groups. This problem has been worsened by a high rate of urbanization. Africa has been experiencing the world's most rapid rate of urbanization at nearly 5 per cent per annum.

UN-HABITAT's Water and Sanitation programme is funded by a Water and Sanitation Trust Fund. Its main focus is improving delivery of water and sanitation in African Asia through its regional programmes, Water for African Cities and Water for Asian Cities, and promoting policy dialogue, information exchange, water education and awareness raising. It also monitors progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets on improving access to safe water and sanitation and undertakes replicable model-setting initiatives, notably the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation and Mekong Regional Water and Sanitation initiatives.

The main aim of the UN-HABITAT Water and Sanitation Programme is to contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed goals related to water and sanitation in human settlements with particular focus on the urban poor, in order to facilitate equitable social, economic and environmental development.

The development objective is to support developing countries to achieve sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation for the poor in urban areas.

In 2005, the Results Based Management (RBM) framework of the programme document for the Trust Fund was reviewed and adjusted in consultation with the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of UN-HABITAT.

The goals of the programme are to:

  • Include the human settlement dimension in the World Water Development Reports. Publish the Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities reports and ensure that pro-poor and gender focused governance frameworks are available and in use.
  • Enhance awareness of water and sanitation issues and encourage the application of guide documents, norms, standards and toolkits by the water and sanitation sector and UN-HABITAT partners.
  • Form strategic partnerships among key water and sanitation stakeholders, these include the United Nations, development banks, donors, urban centres, utilities, non-governmental organizations, and communities to promote increasing levels of investment in UN-HABITAT programmes
  • Train water and sanitation sector stakeholders to enable them to develop, provide and manage improved water and sanitation services
  • Encourage water and sanitation institutions in participating countries to replicate local initiatives as a consequence of increased investment flows and with the involvement of local communities.
  • Work with water and sanitation institutions in participating countries to develop enhanced capacity to track progress towards internationally agreed targets based on improved information systems and enhanced monitoring frameworks.
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