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African Ministers pledge water and sanitation for over 90 million people

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African Ministers attending the second Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting held in Washington D.C., USA, today, have made pledges which if delivered, would provide 91.1 million Africans with access to these essential life saving services across the continent.

The figures for increased access to water of 37.9 million people and sanitation of 53.1 million people (which adds up to 91.1 million, were calculated by WaterAid, an international development agency, at the conclusion of the High Level Meeting that brought together a hundred developing and donor country ministers and officials from over 50 countries.

According to WaterAid, these commitments if realised, mean that the Governments will need to strive over the next two years to increase access to water by 5% and sanitation by 7% in their countries.

Disclosing these in a press release, the international development agency, which is a partner of the SWA initiative, said it welcomed the pledges from the African Ministers.

Meanwhile, alongside the baseline pledges ‘to strive’ towards increasing access to water by 5% and sanitation by 7% made by all the developing country governments participating in the High Level Meeting, governments have also tabled their own country commitments as part of the meeting.

For example, in Uganda, the Government has committed to providing 4,800,000 of its citizens with improved sanitation and an additional 2,236,544 with access to safe drinking water, while in Zambia, amongst other commitments, the Government has pledged to make at least 1,000 rural wards open defecation free by 2014.

For its part, the Government of Burkina Faso says it is also committed to allocating at least 17.5 CFA billion annually ($35 million U.S.) to improving access to water and sanitation.

On the other hand, WaterAid ‘s discussion document, “Saving Lives”, shows that by meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on sanitation by 2015, the lives of over 280,000 children under the age of five would be saved in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It indicates that at current rates of progress the continent is not expected to reach the sanitation MDG target until the year 2175, 160 years late.

Sharing her thoughts on the pledges made by the African Ministers and the current state of sanitation and water on the continent, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, Barbara Frost stated:

“A lack of safe sanitation and water and the diarrhoea it causes is the biggest killer of children in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Ministers in Africa are committed to do more to reach people with water and sanitation services, and their pledges to strive for increased access for over 90 million people are much welcomed. The key challenge now will be putting in place and delivering the national plans in a timely fashion to make these commitments a reality.”

She  also strongly welcomed the announcement from the UK Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP that the UK is doubling the number of people they intend to reach with water, improved hygiene and sanitation by 2015, from 30 million to at least 60 million people.

“We are delighted that the Coalition Government has committed to double the number of people it plans to reach from 30 to at least 60 million people who will benefit from water, improved hygiene and sanitation,” WaterAid’s Chief Executive said.

Barbara Frost added:“The Secretary of State has demonstrated not just through words but also in actions that the UK is truly leading the international community in tackling the water and sanitation crisis.  We call on the other donors and governments to follow the UK Government’s lead and redouble their efforts to achieve sanitation and water for all.”

A recent DFID review showed that water, sanitation and hygiene interventions are a highly cost effective way of improving the health, welfare and livelihoods of poor people living in developing countries and represent excellent value for money. However, until now these interventions attracted just 2% of the UK’s aid budget.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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