Africa Water Week: WaterAid urges provision for over 100 million people

International aid organisation, WaterAid, has called on governments attending the ongoing 4th Africa Water Week meeting in Cairo, Egypt, to as a matter of urgency work towards providing water and sanitation,  for  over 100 more Africans within the next two years.

Specifically, WaterAid has asked African Governments to act to provide safe drinking water to 42.8 million people and adequate sanitation to 59.9 million by the year 2014.

According to WaterAid, which is core convenor for the sub-theme of ‘Meeting water and sanitation targets’ at the Africa Water Week meeting taking place from 14th to 19th May, their call is informed by the recent estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 600 million people lack access to adequate sanitation, while 335 million people lack access to clean, safe water.

Also, over three quarters of a million children (750,000) in Africa are said to die every year due to diarrhoeal diseases caused, in the vast majority of cases, by a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Speaking to the issue, Nelson Gomonda, WaterAid’s Pan-Africa Programme Manager stated: “African governments risk their credibility if they do not seize the opportunity to tackle this crisis by significantly increasing access to water and sanitation in their countries.  With thousands of African children dying every day, governments should honour previous promises to increase their spending on sanitation.”

WaterAid is supporting Africa Water Week which has brought together policy makers from across Africa, as an opportunity for sharing valuable skills, experiences, and best practice around achieving access to water and sanitation for all.

Commitments previously made by African government include those made most recently by 30 African nations at the Sanitation and Water for All meeting in April in Washington DC, plus the 2007 eThekwini Declaration (where governments agreed to budget 0.5% of their GDP on sanitation), and Sharm El-Sheikh in 2008 (on accelerating water and sanitation goals).

Currently though, only one African government, Sao Tome and Principe, has met the eThekwini Declaration target.

WaterAid successfully pushed for similar targets on increasing access to these essential services at the High Level Meeting of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership in Washington D.C. in April.

At the HLM, nearly 30 African Countries and many other governments from around the globe agreed to strive to implement baseline commitments to increase access to water by 5% and sanitation by 7% in their countries over the next two years.

However, despite global progress, sub-Saharan Africa is not due to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on water until 2032 (17 years too late) and not due to reach universal access until 2075.

Further, the region is not due to reach its sanitation MDG by 2175 (160 years too late) and not due to reach universal access until 2360, says WaterAid.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Programme estimates that the shortfall in water and sanitation services cost sub-Saharan African countries around 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) each year ($55.6 billion in 2010), more than the amount provided in development aid to the entire continent ($47.9 billion in 2010).

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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