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In advance of World Water Day, the nonprofit organization calls on donors to close the water funding gap to help tackle rising hunger.
According to a new report from Action Against Hunger, fewer than 30% of appeals for humanitarian support for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) related programs were met in 2022, leaving an average funding gap of 70.3%. Released one day before World Water Day (March 22), the analysis looked at available data for 41 countries that used the UN humanitarian system to request humanitarian assistance for WASH programs in 2022, and highlights the connection between decreased water funding and growing hunger.
The World’s Water Funding Crisis: How Donors Are Missing the Mark found that in 2022, no WASH appeals were fully funded for 13 countries experiencing “crisis” levels of hunger, even though dirty water contributes to more than 1.5 million deaths each year, many from malnutrition linked to water-borne disease. To fully fund WASH-related appeals through the UN humanitarian system, it would take an additional $2.6 billion. For context, Americans will bet twice that much on March Madness this year.
“When people think about hunger, water is not always part of that conversation,” said Jean Lapegue, Senior WASH Advisor, Action Against Hunger. “But a lot of our work is focused on managing and improving access to clean water. Not only is it essential to grow and prepare food, but it also prevents the spread of disease. Twenty-seven percent of deaths of children younger than five are directly related to preventable water-borne diseases.”
“We know how to overcome the water challenges that we face every day, but we need adequate funding to do it,” said Bizuneh Assefa, Action Against Hunger’s WASH Specialist for the Horn and Eastern Africa . “I have seen firsthand the transformative impact that water, sanitation, and hygiene programs can have in the fight against hunger. By investing in WASH, we can reduce hunger, promote health and gender equity, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
When looking at funding for countries dealing with crisis levels of hunger (or worse), Action Against Hunger found a 53% gap in funding for hunger programs, a 62% gap in WASH funding, and a 55% gap in health funding. The analysis considered both the overall funding levels of WASH programs in 2022 as well as funding for countries that experienced “crisis” levels of hunger in 2021. This approach focused on the need in 2021 and the response in 2022 across the following countries: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
“Two billion people around the world lack access to safely managed drinking water and 4.2 billion lack adequate sanitation. These are fundamental human rights that are critical to reducing hunger and promoting health, which are the cornerstones of individual development and economic growth,” said Dr. Charles Owubah, CEO, of Action Against Hunger.
The report is the result of Action Against Hunger’s analysis of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Response Plan funding data, as well as the Integrated Food Security Classification (IPC) Population Tracking Tool.