Expanding access to clean water, along with proper sanitation and hygiene systems, is essential to ending global poverty, but often there is a gap between policy and implementation.

This was a central emphasis in a new World Bank report based on studies of conditions in 18 nations, including Bangladesh, Guatemala, Nigeria and the West Bank.

“The importance of water supply, sanitation and hygiene obviously transcends time and geography – but even where this is explicitly recognized in policy, the needs of hundreds of millions of citizens remain unmet,” the report summarized. “Policies and voted budgets often look ‘good’ in terms of their commitments to extend WASH [Water, Sanitation and Hygiene] services to poor and marginalized populations, but the actual resource allocation decisions do not reflect the policy commitments.”

In other words, implementation – not policy – is the leading problem in improving the quality of and access to WASH services.

Absence of reliable WASH services “constitutes one of the deepest and most far-reaching deprivations,” the World Bank stated. “Improving WASH can help protect the foundations of development by supporting nutrition and health, two key pillars of human development.”

For example, exposure to contaminated drinking water, coupled with improper sanitation and poor hygiene, are underlying factors in stunting in children because “poor WASH contributes to under-nutrition by transmitting pathogens and infections that inhibit nutritional uptake.”

According to a July 2017 U.N. report, 2 billion people currently lack access to clean water sources and 4 billion are without proper sanitation systems.

“Millions are currently trapped in poverty by poor water supply and sanitation,” Guangzhe Chen, senior director of the Water Global Practice of the World Bank, stated in an Aug. 28 press release. “To give everyone an equal chance at reaching their full potential, more resources, targeted to areas of high vulnerability and low access, are needed to close the gaps and improve poor water and sanitation services.”

One thing is clear, the World Bank emphasized: We “need to think and work differently – business as usual is not an option.”

The full World Bank report is available here.

Editor’s note: An EthicsDaily.com article series for World Water Day 2017 highlighted several Baptist-led clean water initiatives. It is available here.

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