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Water in Peru’s Desert Capital

The capital city of Lima is located in the valleys of three rivers on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean in central Peru. It is mild and warm throughout the year and noteworthy for being one of the driest capitals in the world. It just doesn’t rain much in Lima, yet its growing population of nearly 9 million people, many of them impoverished, needs water.

Image removed.As with many cities in Latin America, Lima has burgeoning slums (called pueblos jóvenes) that are now spreading to the higher parts of the hills surrounding the city. Access to water along these dry and jagged slopes is precarious and living conditions are substandard. So in line with the Millennium Development Goals, the Peruvian government created the “Water for All” program to help extend and improve water and sanitation services in the pueblos jóvenes, as well as in low-income areas in the country’s other largest cities.

As Peru’s partner in addressing these challenges, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) financed three of the nine projects under the program: Sargento Lorentz, Amauta Valley and Carabayllo. SEDAPAL, Lima’s water and sewerage utility, implemented the program, delivering potable water to 21,504 families, and sewer service to 18,263 families in the three projects financed by the IDB.

A 2010 evaluation of the first three years of the program found that 83 percent of households interviewed had toilets and 70 percent had drainage and water connections installed under the program.

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The impact of such programs on health is well established. Better access to water and sanitation services improves health and economic conditions for the population. Diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and some respiratory diseases can be prevented by providing clean water and adequate sewage disposal service, according to the United Nations’ 2012 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water. For example, the World Health Organization reports that improved sanitation reduces diarrhea-related death rates by a third, mostly among children under the age of five living in developing countries.

Moreover, improved water and sanitation services support economic development by reducing the frequency of disease, making people more productive and curbing demand for health services. That’s particularly important in Lima, which accounts for two-thirds of Peru’s industrial production and needs a healthy workforce.

Globally, investment in water and sanitation has generated $7 billion in savings a year for health agencies and $340 million in savings for households, according to WHO estimates. Such savings allow governments to use public resources for other development initiatives. By investing to create safer and healthier households in Lima’s pueblos jóvenes, the Government of Peru is improving its citizens lives andthe overall economic and social development of the country.

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