Africa could turn a corner in the sanitation crisis

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Africa could finally be turning a corner in the sanitation crisis say civil society groups ANEW and FAN, NGO WaterAid, WSSCC and the End Water Poverty Campaign attending AfricaSan3 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The comments come at the end of the conference designed to “put Africa back on track to meet the sanitation MDG”. These groups say that the high level of participation and engagement shown by African Governments offers cause for optimism.

However, the challenge remains formidable.  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.  584 million people in Africa do not have an improved sanitation, and the poorest are 18 times more likely to practice open defecation.

Sanitation has always been the most neglected and off-track of the MDGs, with little funding, resources or political will to address the crisis, but this conference attracted unprecedented levels of participation by delegations from 42 African countries. These included ministers of water, health, environment and education. Civil society leaders 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.

All countries were able to show some progress towards pre-existing eThekwini commitments. However the single biggest challenge identified at the conference is funding. There has been little or no progress towards the agreed target of allocating 0.5% of GDP to sanitation.

“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,” says Lydia Zigomo, WaterAid’s Head of East Africa, “ 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.”

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