BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
Africa could finally be turning a corner in the sanitation crisis say civil society groups ANEW and FAN, WaterAid, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the End Water Poverty Campaign who attended the recently held AfricaSan3 conference in Kigali, Rwanda.
In the opinion of the groups, the high level of participation and engagement shown by African Governments offers cause for optimism (the conference attracted unprecedented levels of participation by delegations from 42 African countries).
The comments were made at the end of the conference which was designed to “put Africa back on track to meet the sanitation MDG”.
The delegations included ministers of water, health, environment and education as well as civil society leaders who also played a big part and pledged to work closely with AMCOW (African Ministers Council) to track progress, identify challenges and seek joint solutions.
Perhaps most critically, for the first time countries agreed detailed action plans to address key blockages to progress.
But even though all countries were able to show some progress towards pre-existing eThekwini commitments made at AfricaSan 2 in 2008, the single biggest challenge identified at the conference was funding. Identified was the fact that there has been little or no progress towards the agreed target of allocating 0.5% of GDP to sanitation, as is the case in Ghana, where the last budget only allocated 0.1% of GDP to sanitation.
Commenting on the state of improved sanitation coverage on the continent, Lydia Zigomo, WaterAid’s Head of East Africa said “If Africa is to stand any chance of getting back on track for the sanitation MDG, then these plans and strategies urgently need to be resourced.”
“But African ministers of finance and donors have a real opportunity to resolve this financing gap through the Sanitation and Water for All partnership. Concrete financial commitments from both sides are essential if millions of Africans, particularly women and girls, are to be lifted out of poverty and lead lives of dignity,” she added.
For now, the challenge in Africa still remains daunting, as figures presented show that the host Rwanda is one of just four countries in Sub Saharan Africa that are currently on-track to meet the sanitation target by 2015.
Available statistics indicate 584 million people in Africa currently do not have improved sanitation, while the poorest are 18 times more likely to practice open defecation.
It has also been observed that the reason for sanitation’s poor showing in Africa is because it is the most neglected with little funding, resources or political will to address the crisis.