Voices on the ground in Africa demand governments walk the talk
Grassroots activists in Africa have come together at AfricaSan 3, Kigali, Rwanda to demand that their leaders and international governments demonstrate strong leadership and take urgent action on the continent’s critical sanitation situation.
Only 31% of people living in Africa have adequate access to sanitation, despite sanitation and water being a recognised human right. This is a situation which is having a devastating impact on the health, education, economic and social standing of the poorest people. 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 costs the region around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year. Without strong and targeted action from governments and donors, this inequality of access and the resulting poverty looks set to increase.
Civil society representatives and community leaders have come together to present one voice at the only Africa-wide conference on sanitation. In consultation with over 230 African CSOs, INGO WaterAid, FAN, WSSCC and the End Water Poverty campaign, they are calling for their governments and development partners to:
- Develop clear financial plans to ensure that 0.5% of GDP is spent on sanitation, as per the eThekwini Declaration, and that these funds are targeted to those most in need.
- Work together to support the global Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership to ensure high-level coordination of funds, targets and practises.
- Work transparently so their progress can be monitored and assessed, especially in relation to the implementation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.
“Despite our collective efforts, since the last AfricaSan 2.1 million children under-five have died of diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation, water and hygiene in Africa,” said civil society leader Doreen Wandera Kabasindi from Uganda.
“We are striving to bring an end to these preventable deaths and this huge suffering so we call on our governments to take urgent action.”
These calls come on top of a new progress report from WaterAid, WSSCC and Unicef which shows there is still much to be done if Africa is to meet the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation and stick to its eThekwini Declaration commitments.
“We would like to see our recommendations taken seriously and reflected in the final AfricaSan statement as well as in national policies going forward,” said Nelson Gomonda, Pan, Africa Manager for WaterAid, “If African leaders are sincere about stopping millions of needless deaths, they must follow their consciences and deliver on the promises they have made.”
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.
- Diarrhoea kills more children globally than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined and is the biggest killer of children in Africa
- Only four countries in sub Saharan Africa are on track to meet the sanitation Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target, 584 million lack access to improved facilities and 231 million practise open defecation.
- Sub Saharan Africa is the region with the highest number of people without access to safe water and only 20 countries are on-track to meet the MDG water target.
- Slow progress towards WASH MDG targets, particularly sanitation, is holding back progress on all other MDGs.
To achieve progress towards the MDG targets on water and sanitation, African Heads of State have signed up to African commitments on water and sanitation:
- eThekwini Declaration (2008). Signed by 20 African countries, outlined commitments to increase the profile of sanitation and hygiene in poverty strategies and public sector budget allocations (a minimum of 0.5% of GDP), enhance leadership, coordination and capacity, and develop and implement sanitation monitoring systems. In the same year, it was recognized by African Heads of State and endorsed in the Sharm El-Sheikh Commitments on Water and Sanitation.
- Sharm el Sheikh Declaration (2008): commitment to establishing water management policies, regulatory frameworks and programmes, and prepare national strategies and action plans for achieving the MDG targets for water and sanitation; build human resources capacity, climate change adaptation measures, increase domestic financial allocation an mobilize donor finance to WASH, Civil Society, women, youth and public engagement in WASH programmes, monitor progress, regional dialogues on climate change, regional cooperation.
- Sanitation and Water for All: Sanitation and Water for All is a global partnership between developing countries, donors, multi-lateral agencies, civil society and other development partners working together to achieve universal and sustainable access to sanitation and drinking water, with an immediate focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the most off-track countries. This transparent, accountable and results-oriented framework for action provides a common vision, values and principles that support a vision for everyone in the world to have sustainable access to sanitation and drinking water. To achieve this, Sanitation and Water for All aims to:
- Increase political prioritisation for sustainable sanitation and drinking water
- Support strong national sanitation and drinking water planning, investment and accountability frameworks
- Improve targeting and impact of resources for sustainable sanitation and drinking water
- Support effective decision making by providing detailed information and evidence on sanitation and drinking water
- Strengthen mutual accountability of governments and development partners.