Pacific lagging behind in water and sanitation MDGs
UNICEF says the Pacific is lagging behind in water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals, with many people not having access to the basic human right.
UNICEF New Zealand says four years after the Millennium Development Goals' global target for safe drinking water was met, the Pacific is still lagging far behind.
As World Water Day was marked this week, the executive director, Dennis McKinlay says many people in the Pacific do not have access to their basic right of water and sanitation.
He says the Pacific is tied with Sub-Saharan Africa as having the lowest level of improved sanitation anywhere in the world.
Mr McKinlay told Mary Baines the Pacific is far off track to achieving either its sanitation or water Millennium Development Targets by 2015.
DENNIS MCKINLAY: It's still a problem accessing safe water. The Pacific Islands generally do not have good water systems and partly that's because of the dispersed nature of the population across many small islands, it makes it hard to service them.
MARY BAINES: I understand almost four years after the world met the global target for clean drinking water in the Millennium Development Goals, obviously many people in the Pacific are still without clean drinking water. So why has the Pacific been left behind?
DM: Well it's partly scale. The countries that hold the most people that don't have access to water are China, where there's about 108 million, India, 99 million, Nigeria 63 million. So if you can do work where there's the most people, you have the most impact. And in general terms, the Pacific is smaller populations and it's also quite problematic because of people living in many small communities in the islands. Also the low levels of water - so Kiribati for example, where there's hardly a water table at all, you get into salination problems. So they really need to either purify salt water or they need water harvesting where they capture rainfall. So the problems in the Pacific are a bit more complicated.
MB: So how much progress do you think actually has been made since the Millennium Development Goals were put in place?
DM: There has been a lot of progress. Because in 2010 they said they had met 89 percent of the world's need for people to have safe water, and that was the target back in 2010. But we can't think well we've reached the Millennium Development Goal and you know things are tickety-boo. People are dying in the Pacific Islands because of lack of clean water, contaminated water, children get diarrhoea and other diseases.
MB: So what's being done about it? What kind of programmes are in place?
DM: In the Pacific it's about water harvesting, so a lot of rainfall so you capture it on the roof into guttering and put the water into tanks. In Vanuatu, for example, we are working on a system where small communities live in remote islands but it's quite mountainous, and there are streams with water fall. So the fall of the water is driving a ram pump, and the pump then pushes the water up to the village that is further up above the water level. And there's no electricity needed because we're using the energy from the fall of the water. So there are different solutions in different places. We're also looking at solar power to drive water pumps, because in the Pacific solar works well.
MB: What needs to be done post-2015 in a new set of goals?
DM: Well there will be a continuation around water and of course sanitation. Whether there will be specific targets or not is not clear yet. There is a bit of a sense that there may be some global targets but they'll also be looking for countries to set specific targets. But, you know, because water and sanitation is so critical to human health and development there's no question that they will be to the fore of the sustainable development goals.
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