World Bank Group President Flags Sanitation as Key Priority for Ending Poverty

April 11, 2014

Kim urges world leaders to tackle poverty through increasing access to improved sanitation

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2014 – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today, at a meeting with global ministers of finance, water and sanitation, called on world leaders to take urgent action to provide access to basic sanitation services for their citizens, as a means to fight poverty.  The remarks come ahead of the IMF-World Bank Group Spring Meetings.

We’re here today to prevent millions of needless deaths of people – most of them poor children – who die because of a lack of sanitation,” said Kim.

An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to functioning toilets or sanitary means of disposing human feces. This includes the 1 billion people who practice open defecation near rivers and fields, spreading germs from human waste through food, water, and washing of clothes. The resulting diarrheal disease leads to the deaths of thousands of children every day, and countless other negative impacts like child stunting. The economic impacts from morbidity, health, and environmental and industry losses are equally staggering. And, despite almost 1.9 billion people gaining access to toilets or latrines since 1990, sanitation remains one of the most off-track Millennium Development Goals globally.

Kim noted that the World Bank Group can’t reach its goals -- ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent -- without fixing poor sanitation, which is directly linked to poverty. 

The World Bank Group is committed to doing our part, both in financing and improving delivery,” said Kim.  “Our newly appointed Senior Director of the Water Practice, Junaid Ahmad, will work with finance ministers and all other stakeholders to develop a plan for sustained global focus and commitment for sanitation and water for all.  We’ll team up with ministers of education to put sanitation facilities in every school; with ministers of health to add sanitation to health and nutrition programs; and with ministers of agriculture, the environment, and urban planning to include basic sanitation in their plans and programs that target the poor,” he said.

He said the World Bank Group will strengthen its role in creating and sharing knowledge, working with public and private sector partners, and civil society. He added that the experience of NGOs like BRAC in Bangladesh and the Kenya Water for Health Organization can provide greater insight. 

Kim also noted that the United Nations has laid important groundwork to raise global awareness and set goals around this critical issue. He said the UN and World Bank Group will leverage their combined strength, and align with organizations like WaterAid, Toilet Hackers, Global Poverty Project, and ONE DROP.

Kim added that the World Bank Group will broaden stakeholder engagement, including with leaders from the private sector, who are eager to understand their piece of the science of service delivery. The World Bank Group is already in discussions with companies about how private sector financing and knowledge can be mobilized to improve sanitation.

Over the last seven years, the World Bank Group has committed an average of over US$3 billion a year to water and sanitation services, and is the largest multilateral financier for water and sanitation.


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