WASHwatch: helping to hold governments to account on their commitments to the fundamental foundations of health.

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“Watches” —civil society’s accountability tool—are in vogue: First, there was PEPFAR Watch, an initiative set up to hold U.S. global AIDS funding and policy (through President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) accountable to scientific evidence, the real-life needs of women and girls, and human rights.  Then there was Global Health Watch established six years ago to help improve civil society’s capacity to hold national and international governments, global international financial institutions and corporations to account. Now there is WASHwatch—an online platform for monitoring government policy commitments and budgets for water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) which was launched by WaterAid yesterday at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Why?  Because in 2011, 2.6 billion people world-wide STILL do not have access to sanitation; 884 million people have no safe drinking water source; and shockingly, the resulting diarrhoeal diseases kill 4,000 children every day.

Last year, a PLoS Medicine series advocated for prioritising action towards the neglected fundamental foundations of health—water, sanitation, and hygiene, which unknown to many, also have their share of international commitments and pledges, such as the eThekwini declaration on sanitation, and the Sharm El-Sheikh declaration on water and sanitation, which include promises to increase the funds available for WASH. Some governments are doing as promised, but many are not. WASHwatch.org aims to get the key information from national budgets in an accessible, understandable, and downloadable format, which can then be used for communication and advocacy purposes. And there is a lot to advocate for:

According to WaterAid, Donor governments and organisations need to:

  • Double aid to water, sanitation and hygiene to spend $10bn more a year.
  • Target aid on the basis of need, directing money and support to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, particularly to the least developed, fragile and low-income countries, and to lower middle-income countries where the need is highest.

National governments should also take action to significantly improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene within their countries. Specifically:

  • Sub-Saharan African countries should invest 1% of their GDP in tackling sanitation and at least a further 2.5% to developing water supply.
  • The countries in South Asia currently off-track to meet their Millennium Development Goal target for sanitation should allocate at least 1% of their GDP to the issue.

Rhona MacDonald is a freelance editor for PLoS Medicine.

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