By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA
|Caught engaging in open defaecation on a beach|
African governments have made a 10-point commitment to ensure improvement in sanitation and hygiene on the continent and also endorsed a declaration to follow them through.
The 10-point commitment is part of the declaration named the “Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene” which was agreed by ministers responsible for sanitation and hygiene on behalf of their governments at a recently held sanitation conference in Dakar, Senegal, dubbed AfricaSan 4.
The theme for the conference, which also attracted about 1,000 participants from governmental agencies, civil society groups, donors and development banks, multilaterals, research organisations and the private sector, was: “Making Sanitation for All a Reality in Africa”.
Numbering about 40, the ministers committed themselves to focusing on the poorest, most marginalised and unserved to progressively eliminate inequalities in access and use and implement national and local strategies, with emphasis on equity and sustainability.
They said their governments would also mobilise support and resources at the highest political level for sanitation and hygiene to disproportionately prioritise sanitation and hygiene in national development plans.
They pledged to establish and track sanitation and hygiene budget lines that consistently increased annually to reach a minimum of 0.5 per cent GDP by 2020.
They also promised to ensure strong leadership and coordination at all levels to build and sustain governance for sanitation and hygiene across sectors, especially water, health, nutrition, education, gender and the environment.
African leaders further assured the people that they would develop and fund strategies to bridge the sanitation and hygiene human resource capacity gap at all levels and also ensure inclusive, safely managed sanitation services and functional hand-washing facilities in public institutions and spaces.
They also indicated their readiness to “progressively eliminate untreated waste, encouraging its productive use”, and enable, as well as engage, the private sector in developing innovative sanitation and hygiene products and services, especially for the marginalised and unserved.
No stone would be left unturned to establish government-led monitoring, reporting, evaluation, learning and review systems and enable continued active engagement with the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW’s) AfricaSan process, the governments pledged.
Call from ministers
The commitments made notwithstanding, the declaration also enjoined other stakeholders to partner governments to achieve their aim of ensuring adequate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services for all.
It called on all people living in Africa, especially the youth, to utilise and maintain sanitation and hygiene services with propriety and dignity.
AMCOW is also to prioritise and facilitate adequate resourcing for sanitation and hygiene by mobilising dedicated, substantive new sources of financing and facilitate the establishment and management of systems and processes for performance monitoring and accountability against the Ngor Declaration.
Training institutions in Africa are to strengthen local capacity to deliver appropriate services in line with demand, while research institutions are to strengthen the evidence base and develop innovative and locally appropriate solutions.
The civil society in Africa has been tasked to forge a cohesive, coherent and transparent vision and strategy to work with all stakeholders to achieve the Ngor Declaration and the duty of traditional institutions, religious leaders and faith-based organisations is to strongly support equitable sanitation and hygiene activities in their communities.
The private sector is to increase its engagement in the entire sanitation and hygiene value chain to improve innovation and efficiency, while the development banks, donors and partners are to increase their support to government-led efforts for universal access to sanitation and hygiene and to match this financial support with responsible and accountable engagement.
The Ngor Declaration
The Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene is a new vision which, in line with the proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims at achieving universal access to adequate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and eliminate open defecation, by 2030.
Ngor means ‘Dignity’ in Wolof, Senegal’s national language, and is seen as an appropriate name for commitments that emphasise equity and sanitation as a service, rather than just infrastructure, thereby underscoring the need for behavioural change and sustainability.
The Ngor Declaration, which was adopted on May 27, 2015, replaces an earlier similar one, the eThekwini Declaration, which was adopted in 2008 by African leaders at the Second African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (AfricaSan 2) held in Durban, South Africa, from February 18-21, 2008, with firm resolutions to place sanitation and hygiene at the top of the development agenda in Africa.
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This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on July 29, 2015