UN Economic Commission for Africa Wants Safe Water to Flow Allover Africa

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Newton Sibanda
March 20,2012

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Abdoulie Janneh is calling for concrete actions to facilitate the delivery of safe water to millions of Africans who remain in need.

Addressing a high-level session on the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative and the Africa Water Facility at the just ended 6th World Water Forum in Marseilles France, Mr. Janneh said that a measure of success for the forum would be an agreement on renewed pledges to support African countries in meeting the millennium development goal (MDG) targets for water and sanitation, particularly in the rural areas.

The 6th World Water Forum gathered more than 25,000 participants in Marseille from 12th to 18th March 2012.

Mr. Janneh, who is also UN Under Secretary-Generalwas speaking on a panel on partnership for strengthening water security in Africa.

He urged African countries and development agencies to come up with strategies to harness the resources needed to transform Africa’s immense water potential into assets for people to grow food and save millions of lives from water borne diseases.

Other members of the panel included African Union Commission chairperson Jean Ping, Chairperson of the ; President of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka,The Prince of Orange, Chairman of United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB); The Hon. , president of the African Ministers Council on Water Edna Molewa from South Africa; and AMCOW Executive Secretary. Bai Mass Taal.

Bai Mass Tall, the executive secretary of AMCOW (African Minister's Council on Water) speaking during the closing function of the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille

The panel unanimously called on African governments, bilateral and multilateral partners and other key stakeholders to help raise the resources, estimated at $400 million over the next three years, required to ensure that safe water is availability in acceptable levels throughout Africa.

Mr. Janneh said that there is a clear need for a work program that would lead to the achievement of the goal African countries set for themselves by continuing to place water issues at the forefront of Africa’s development agenda.

He renewed the commitment of ECA which hosts the secretariat of UN-Water/Africa to continue providing the support that will enable the water sector in the continent to build on its pioneering role as a model of inter-Agency coherence and synergy.

Mr Janneh recalled the dire situation of water needs in Africa and underscored its perplexing nature because the continent is actually “awash with large rivers, big lakes, vast wet lands and widespread ground water resources.”

“Indeed, in the context of this 6th World Water Forum, it is notable that Africa is endowed with transboundary waters with international river basins that cover not less than 62 percent of its land area”, he explained.

A picture of a mobile water purification plant in the Village of solutions at the 6th World Water Forum

Earlier, the president of the World Water Council, Loïc Fauchon said that Africa needs to bridge the gap between availability of water on the continent and the access its people have to it by fully integrating water accessibility and food security into national health strategies.

“What use is it to feed children only to see them die for lack of safe water”, Mr Fauchon asked, adding that water is as important for health as it is for energy.

He called for future climate change negotiations, including the future Green Fund, to put water issues on top of their discussions.

The Prince of Orange lauded efforts made by individual African countries, despite obvious financial constraints to supply water to the ever-increasing city populations, though regretting the fact that not so much progress had been made in the area of basic sanitation.

He called on Africa to begin to believe in its abilities saying, “a lot of good practices do exist on the continent and Africa countries should begin to look at each other for good examples.”

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Ping related different regional initiatives on water and said that the intra-African solidarity revealed during recent draughts in Somalia shows that Africa can contribute substantially towards resolving its water problems.

Mr. Kaberuka, President of the Africa Development Bank, recalled different initiatives by the bank and called for African ownership of its water projects, even as they continue to seek partnerships with development agenciesw while Ms.Molewa, president of AMCOW emphasized on the theme of the Forum – Time for Solutions – arguing Africa is doing its best, as testified by the growing number of African countries that have increased the budgetary allocations for water provision.

“Now is the time to use water to wash away poverty and underdevelopment”, she concluded.

The entire panel agreed that “a time for solutions” should also be an important step in preparing the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

This resonates with Africa’s position which is that water must be placed at the heart of all the issues on the agenda at Rio+20: for the green economy and in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

1 COMMENT

  1. The provision of clean water and sanitation are the basic minimum requirements for achieving better health for people. African governments are not allocating adequate resources and attention to these basic issues. Instead most of them focus on winning the next election and beefing up their security and defence systems. African leaders have bobbed from one conference to another promising action on these basic issues while placing the responsibility to fund programmes on the international donor community. Why should basic African Human Rights be funded by outsiders? All African countries have enough money to provide clean water and adequate sanitation services to their people. How many of our leaders ever consider that they manage countries that have less people than some cities in the developed world but cannot provide them with these basic services? Zimbabwe for example has a population of 12 million. How many Zimbabweans have access to clean water and water borne sanitation? By comparison, what is the population of London and how many Londoners have running water and water borne sanitation? BUT what is Zimbabwe’s defence budget? This same comparison can be made of Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Togo, Tanzania etc. All African countries need to do is to reduce or even stop funding defence and security operations (which are used to protect the elite) and divert these resources to water and sanitation development programmes.

    African countries and the international community are all in agreement that water and sanitation are basic human rights. By extension therefore, are all governments that fail to provide their people with these services guilty of abuse of human rights? Is it time therefore taht all countries that fail to provide these services were named and shamed at the international fora they all parade themselves year in year out? The world should hold accountable Africa’s self serving leadership that wallows in the “executive luxury” of bottled spring water (most of the time imported from Europe!!) while their people drink water from the same ponds as their livestock!

    Maybe the term African Spring was not as inappropriate as some have tried to make it? It might be time for Africa’s people to rise and reclaim their lives from the inept and corrupt leadership that at best has condemned us to abject poverty, druggery and want in the aftermath of the glorious hours of the dawn of political freedom in our respective countries. And YES-this IS a political issue in case the reader is now wondering where this comment is headed! Is it not criminal that a lot of cities on the African continent that supplied clean water to their people before independence are now failing to do so or at best supply polluted water? Or are our leaders trying to confirm that the colonials where smater than them? Its not a resource issue as the resources are available!

    As Africa prepares to “travel” to RIO+20 we should carry out some serious introspection and drop all the acusatory language about our circumstances that we always direct at the West and instead commit to resolving our own problems as Africans-after all we are the ones who know where the shoe pinches! The majority of the donor community will continue to provide support for “capacity building” even to 88 year old African men and women, enginneers, planners and economists which will not change anything on the ground. Its time for Africa to get down from the podium and get into the trenches to repair broken sewer lines and lay new water reticulation sytems! To quote an old African saying: If you need a helping hand, first look at the end of your own arm!!!! We do not need Millenium Development Goals we need clean water, proper sanitation and a clean environment tomorrow!

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