WaterAid urges fuller water and sanitation policy role for people with disabilities

Water Aid has called for a global drive to enable people with disabilities to have a “central role” in the policymaking and programmes needed to provide accessible and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Speaking after the recent Global Disability Summit, WaterAid’s chief executive Tim Wainwright (pictured), said: “People with disabilities are the world's largest minority. The proportion of the population with disabilities now represents 1 billion people; 80% of whom live in developing countries, where people with disabilities are less likely to have access to water or sanitation, education or employment, leading to poor health and a higher likelihood of living in poverty.”

Water Aid echoed the sentiments of international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, in her signed speech to the House of Commons, when she said: “For too long, in the world’s poorest countries, disabled people have not been able to reach their full potential because of stigma or not enough practical support.”

In a statement the charity said: “People with disabilities are rarely consulted or involved in WASH policy and programmes, and are often among the one in nine people in the world who lack access to clean water, and the one in three currently living without decent toilets.

“Exclusion, because of disability, can be exacerbated by other factors, for example being female, poor or living in remote areas. Poverty and social exclusion are fundamentally linked.

Breaking down generations of stigma takes time and persistence. It will also take time and persistence across the sector to develop the skills required to meet the needs of people with disabilities, ensuring they are always consulted, understood and included in water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, as a matter of course.