A shortage of engineers in developing countries is hampering development, according to a new UNESCO global report on engineering . In developing countries there are on average only five engineers per 10,000 people – and less than one in some African countries – compared to 20–50 engineers per 10,000 in developed countries.
The poorest are hit hardest by the lack of engineers: 1.1 billion people have no access to clean water, 2 billion have no access to electricity and 800 million go hungry on a daily basis.
“The crucial thing is to address people’s basic needs: water supply, sanitation, better homes,” Tony Marjoram, editor of the report and head of engineering sciences at UNESCO, told SciDev.Net.
[...] Developing countries bear the brunt of climate change, so ensuring sustainable development is also important, he said.
“Engineering is often blamed for pollution but it can create solutions to reduce carbon emissions and make energy use more effective,” Marjoram said.
In the foreword of the report, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova says:
It is estimated that some 2.5 million new engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone if that region is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of improved access to clean water and sanitation.
This estimate appears to come from a 2007 study  and is “based on the staffing ratios set out in Ethiopia’s Universal Access Plan and the figures from the Joint Monitoring Programme 2006″ . Some preliminary findings from an ongoing DFID study in Bangladesh, Timor Leste, Mali, South Africa and Zambia, which aims to provide more reliable figures, were presented during the 2010 Stockholm Water Week :
- Timor Leste: 320 – 752 additional staff needed to reach the MDG targets
- Zambia: 230 engineers, 223 other professionals and many skilled technicians needed
- South Africa: 40,000 to 46,000 workers needed in the sector
- Bangladesh: vacancy of approx. 5,470 employees in the public agencies – mostly technicians
- Mali: about 241 new professionals each year from 2009 until 2015, to achieve the MDG target
Chapter 6 of the UNESCO report is dedicated to engineering for development, with a special focus on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Included is a short section on water supply and sanitation (chap. 6.2.1) written by Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy (University of South Florida) and Damir Brdjanovic (UNESCO-IHE). To overcome past failures in urban water and sanitation in developing countries, the authors recommend that:
appropriate engineering innovations and solutions [need to be] coupled with components of institutional development (through capacity-building activities), and greater stakeholder involvement, particularly with the engineers and the consumers themselves.
 Marjoram, T. (2010). Engineering : issues, challenges and opportunities for development. (UNESCO report). Paris, France, UNESCO. ISBN Download full report (10.3 MB)
 Cotton, A., Odhiambo, F. and Coates, S. (2007) Capacity development in the water and sanitation sector. Prepared for the Department for International Development (DFID). WELL Resource Centre Network For Water, Sanitation and Environmental Health [unpublished document]
 Cavill, S. and Saywell, D. (2009). The capacity gap in the water and sanitation sector. Paper presented at the 34th WEDC International Conference, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2009. Download paper
 DFID, IWA and UKAid (2010). Human resource gaps and shortages in the water and sanitation sector. Presentation from the 2010 World Water Week in Stockholm. Download Powerpoint
Source: Christine Ottery, SciDev.Net, 04 Nov 2010