The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has provided new funding to the University of Oxford’s REACH programme, which seeks to improve water security in Africa and Asia.

On 20th October 2020, it was announced that the FCDO’s grant for the programme will extend to 2024 and increase to £22.5 million. REACH, which began in 2015, is a global research programme that focuses on using world-class science to improve policy and practice regarding water security.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “We at Oxford are committed to supporting the next phase of the work in order to improve the lives of over 10 million people who are desperately in need of support. We are very grateful to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office for funding this work and to our many partners across the globe who collaborate with us in advancing the goals of REACH.”

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REACH has worked closely with partners such as UNICEF, national governments, private sector companies, and academic institutions. Through these collaborations, the programme has improved water security for over two million people since 2015 in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh.

According to REACH’s Global Strategy for 2020-2024, published on its website, they aim to continue scaling up the project to reach a target population of 10 million people. To do so, they will focus on addressing inequalities across different scales, such as by developing more inclusive decision-making tools. The issue of climate change will also be tackled, which aims to enhance climate communication and improve coordination between water supply and water management sectors.

Crucially, REACH also aims to improve water quality management, such as by guiding the development of strategies to regulate environmental pollution stemming from urban and industrial growth. At the institutional level, REACH will also partner national and local governments to review and reform water security policy and regulation. These efforts work towards achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which were set out by the UN.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed systemic inequalities and vulnerabilities around the world. According to the University’s press release, Professors Rob Hope and Katrina Charles, who are the Directors of REACH, said: “The pandemic has compounded the severity of the impacts resulting from water-related climate hazards, such as floods, droughts and cyclones… Building water secure institutions reduces the need for and the cost of emergency funding to avoid unnecessary hardship on the most vulnerable, and increases resilience to future risks and shocks.”

Image Credit: DFID/Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY 2.0