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Bilateral cooperation

Water for people


Children in Somalia are playing in a river. Copyright: Manoocher Deghati/IRINThe right to water is a hu­man right; this has been em­pha­sised by the German go­vern­ment in its seventh report on its human rights policy in the context of foreign relations, as well as in other policy areas. Ger­many therefore helps its part­ner countries to imple­ment this right and pro­mo­tes a wide range of mea­sures in all areas of water management.

Reform of the water sector

Water crises are not simply a stroke of fate: they are almost always precipitated by human activity. They are frequently the result of an unequal distribution of power and of political mismanagement.

The poor, in particular, are often unable to assert their right to water. Corruption and cumbersome bureaucracy also hinder people's access to adequate water supplies. Because there is no comprehensive legislation on water, water users and providers often lack legal security.

In addition, technical systems in many countries are outdated and inefficient. Modernisation strategies are lacking, as are investment plans and the money to implement them.

If water resource management is to be improved, therefore, the water sector must be reformed and good governance stepped up. Germany supports its partner countries in bringing about these changes.

Drinking water and sanitation

Polluted water makes people ill. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), more than 2.6 billion people – over 40 per cent of the world's population – have no access to suitable sanitation facilities and therefore endure degrading living conditions.

When people are ill they cannot work and have no opportunity to escape po­ver­ty. In the developing countries five billion working days and more than 400 mil­lion school days are lost each year as a result of water­borne diseases. In­ade­qua­te water and sanitation causes sub-Saharan Africa to lose five per cent of its gross domestic product annually – more than the region receives in development aid.

Water scarcity also stands in the way of education and gender equality. Millions of women and girls spend many hours each day fetching water from distant water points or rivers. Because of this they have less time to attend school or engage in income-generating activities.

Germany supports water and sewage utilities in its partner countries. Through funding and organisational and management advice these utilities are helped to become more customer-oriented and efficient.

In supporting municipal water and sewage services the focus is frequently on overhauling the existing pipe network and training specialist staff. In rural areas the priority is setting up decentralised supply and disposal systems.

Sewage treatment systems can harness the nutrients contained in household sewage to be used in agriculture and can reduce environmental pollution. Ger­ma­ny therefore supports ecological sanitation (ecosan) strategies which aim to pu­ri­fy water and collect nutrients so that they can be returned to the environment.

Standard elements of all programmes in this field are hygiene and awareness-raising measures and user involvement in project planning and implementation.

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