Raising Awareness around Critical Water Issues using Humor with a Twist

January 19, 2017

  • The 2017 World Bank Water Cartoon Calendar illustrates some of the major challenges in providing sustainable water and sanitation services for all, through the lens of humor.
  • Since 2000, the Calendar has brought attention to critical issues in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) around the world.
  • Global development goals have moved beyond basic access to water to addressing more difficult challenges, a shift which is captured in the calendar’s cartoons.

Each year, the World Bank’s Water Cartoon Calendar shines a spotlight on the challenges that remain in the area of water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and their link to poverty reduction.

The issues are complex and sensitive. Despite impressive gains over the past several decades, basic services are still lacking:

  • at least 663 million people do not have access to safe drinking water
  • 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
  • 1 billion people practice open defecation

The 2017 Cartoon Calendar serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done. It was first launched in 2000 by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), the same year the Millennium Development Goals were announced. It remains a powerful tool to shape important advocacy messages for World Bank partners and the general public, and to strengthen the voices pushing the WASH agenda forward.

Although water and sanitation touch people’s lives every day, they do not get the attention they deserve, in particular as the topics are difficult to discuss in many cultures.

By using humor to carefully craft colorful cartoons with a tongue-in-cheek message, serious global concerns are introduced in an informal manner to a larger audience.

Every year, creative and passionate artists from around the world are invited to illustrate the messages. This year’s four cartoonists are:

  • Jesus Felix-Diaz, a Peruvian graphic artist who graduated from the Faculty of Arts of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. He is the director of his own illustration school “La Cochera”, and also teaches digital animation and performs as a freelance artist.
  • Sudhir Dar, one of India’s most famous cartoonists, based in New Delhi. He has delighted millions of readers for almost four decades with a pocket cartoon called ‘This is it!’ Dar is a winner of several national and international awards, and has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and several other prestigious publications worldwide.
  • Wisnoe Lee, a Jakarta-based artist who specializes in posters, comics, and caricatures. His unique cartoon characters—a tricycle driver named Gibug with his yellow cat Oncom—received the prestigious ‘Kosasih Awards’. He has been a great artistic resource to national media agencies including television, radio, newspapers and magazines.
  • Victor Ndula, an editorial cartoonist who lives and works in Nairobi, Kenya. He is published daily under “Victor’s view”. Drawing cartoons for roughly a decade, Ndula continues to lend his voice to social commentary through his cartoons. Ndula has won many local and international awards, including first prize at the Ranan Lurie International Cartoon Competition.

As the world moved from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the global goals for water also moved beyond targets for basic access to water and sanitation to addressing the more difficult challenges of achieving universal access to safe water and improved sanitation, protection of water resources, ensuring sustainability of water use and reaching the poorest and most vulnerable.

This shift has been captured in the calendar’s cartoons. Improved services — combined with an integrated management of water resources — can generate transformational benefits for poor people and the economy at large, freeing up time previously used to collect water, improving health and preventing disease spread through dirty water or poor hygiene. The calendars of recent years not only shed light on the issues involving water and sanitation sustainability and security, but also spur dialogue on sensitive topics which otherwise are rarely discussed in public.

To support the mission of a water-secure world for all under the SDGs, the World Bank Group and its partners are launching a new program, the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), in the first quarter of 2017. Under the auspices of this program, the Water Cartoon Calendar will carry on its tradition of raising awareness around critical global water issues through humor.


To download a high-resolution version the 2017 Calendar, click here. For individual months, follow the links below:

January 2017    

February 2017   

March 2017 

April 2017


May 2017

June 2017


July 2017


August 2017


September 2017

October 2017


November 2017


December 2017