BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
An international development organisation, WaterAid, has alerted that Africa is facing increasing inequality in access to one of the continent’s most basic services, sanitation and action needs to be taken urgently.
According to WaterAid, this inequity is having dire consequences on the health, wealth and development of the continent.
The statement from the organisation comes on the heels of the third Africa Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene currently ongoing in Rwanda and is informed by a recent research conducted by it, which will be presented at the conference.
According to WaterAid the research indicates that the poorest, most marginalised and most in-need people across Africa are missing out on access to safe sanitation and that figures show that a staggering 2.1 million children under the age of five have died from diarrhoea caused by poor quality water, sanitation and hygiene since the last AfricaSan conference held three years ago in South Africa.
In the statement issued to coincide with the conference, WaterAid says diarrhoea, linked to inadequate sanitation, is now recognised as the biggest killer of children in Africa, and it is estimated that lack of safe water and sanitation cost the region around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year.
WaterAid has therefore urged ministers meeting at the conference to keep their promises to prioritise and invest in sanitation, particularly ensuring that they reach Africa’s poorest and most marginalised people, and to work together to accelerate progress towards the Sanitation and Water for All global partnership.
Dr. Afia Zakiya, Country Representative for WaterAid in Ghana said: “With over 500 million of our continent’s people living without access to a toilet, the promises and resolutions already passed by governments in Africa have clearly not been realised.
“Our research shows that it is the poorest of the poor who are missing out on these most basic human necessities, having a massive impact on the development of our country and indeed the whole of our continent.”
She added that “For Africa to truly flourish, leaders at AfricaSan must honour their commitments and now deliver on the promises they have made.”
The new research from WaterAid shows that the inequity is fuelled by poor targeting of aid by both donor countries and African governments.
Some of the key findings are inadequate international aid for water and sanitation to sub-Sahara Africa, the continent most off-track for the Millennium Development Goals, with large amounts going to middle-income countries in richer regions, while within African countries, investments in water and sanitation are not going to those with the greatest need, resulting in the poorest of the poor and the most marginalised groups missing out on sanitation.
AfricaSan will see over 600 ministers and experts from African countries meet in Kigali to review commitments set out in the eThekwini Declaration in 2008.
To mark AfricaSan, WaterAid has collaborated with UNICEF and Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) to produce a Traffic Lights discussion paper, highlighting the gaps between government commitments on sanitation and action taken across Africa.
The paper shows that in Ghana for example, despite strong commitments to provide access to clean water and adequate sanitation, there still remains many critical areas such as the need to increase allocation of funds to tackle sanitation issues as well as develop an effective sanitation monitoring and evaluation system to track the effectiveness of interventions among others.