01 August 2012

A bureaucratic victory over the needs of the poor

LK posted this on a water list:
As you might know, the UN declared yesterday (July 2nd) that the MDG on water has been met, i.e. the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation has been halved.

Our research reveals that the number of non-functioning water points in Pakistan are different to the number reported in the JMP [Joint Monitoring Program], which leads to the following unanswered questions: Will we be happy in 2015 to report progress that was never there for a country of 180 million people? How do we get out of the fix? And how sure are we of our MDG7 ‘guesses’?
In response, I wrote:
Nearly 4 years ago, I noted that the changed definition in MDG7 (from "access to clean water" to "access to a water source") would result in a useless outcome, i.e.,
We know that thousands of well-meaning people will be spending billions of dollars to install pipes, pumps, etc. Will those pipes deliver safe and sustainable water? We can’t be sure about that result — since it’s not being measured — but we can be sure that projects that deliver pipes will get funded, bureaucrats who deliver 100 percent pipe coverage will be lauded for helping the poor, and outsiders are likely to confuse 100 percent pipe coverage with 100 percent access to “safe and sustainable” drinking water.

Bureaucrats will declare victory, outsiders will applaud, projects will wrap up, money will disappear, and those unlucky enough to have pipes with unsafe and unsustainable water will be left to their own devices.
I agree that it's a good idea to highlight reality -- that 3-4 billion people LACK access to reliable, safe water.
Bottom Line: We're not done, and the JMP should not be allowed to pretend that we are.

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