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The power of clean water and sanitation


Authored by Barbara Frost

Children are growing tall and flourishing, new sewage treatment plants are turning our waste into energy, and diarrhoea is now an occasional inconvenience. CEO of WaterAid, Barbara Frost, explores an imagined future in which Global Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation) is being realised.

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About the author

Barbara Frost

Barbara Frost

Barbara Frost is Chief Executive of WaterAid. WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene. It works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region.

Dear 2030,

What a wonderful peaceful and prosperous New Year has dawned, fulfilling our hopes and aspirations for people and for our planet. We have dreamt of this day after years of hope and determination to make this world a better place.

Now families are healthy, children are well-nourished and women and girls have equal opportunities, wherever they are born. Grandmother reminds us of how life has changed in her home outside Lusaka where she used to spend hours every day, away from her family, walking to get water from a murky pond that made her children sick. Freed of that burden, women across the world are now making a good living and boosting their family’s prospects.

Diarrhoea is now an occasional inconvenience, not the ever-present threat to health and to life as it once was for children growing up without a toilet and safe water. And goodness me, now that their food stays in their bellies aren’t those children growing tall and flourishing?

It really is hard to believe that in some countries, just 15 years back, schools and hospitals were without running water or toilets. We’ve known for so long that these basic facilities help pupils concentrate on their studies – however often in the past they had to resort to missing class and going to the bush. For many girls the start of their period meant dropping out of school while now, worldwide, girls are out performing boys and we have seen a real shift in gender equality.

Everyone now practices good hygiene and these good habits have really improved our health. In the last few years we’ve seen such innovation with water efficient, low energy, sewage disposal systems in our towns turning human waste into fuel and fertiliser and new style treatment plants for our water. We all have toilets that disabled and older people can use easily. Open defecation is now a forgotten term.

Everyone takes adequate supplies of drinking water and good toilets for granted and we make sure those who cannot pay are subsidised.

Inspirational political leaders have shown determination and political will reforming our tax systems and investing in services for all. Together the world delivered on the Sustainable Development Goals our governments signed up to in 2015 and they also took decisive action to stop climate change in its tracks. It was a hard struggle at times. However now we have real hope for the future.

Barbara Frost

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