Archive for July, 2011

July 22, 2011

Africa could turn a corner in the sanitation crisis

Tatiana Fedotova
July 22, 2011

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.

L-R, President Kagame, ambassador of sanitation for children Yvonne Chaka Chaka and First Lady Jeannette Kagame after a dinner gala during the AfricaSan3 in Kigali, Rwanda

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.

The 3rd Conference of the African Sanitation and Hygiene Conference was held in Kagali, Rwanda

“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.”

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.

July 22, 2011

Civil society demands African governments walk the talk on sanitation

Newton Sibanda
July 22, 2011

African governments are increasingly under pressure to ‘walk the talk’ on sanitation.

According to a statement from WaterAid- an international nongovernmental organisation whose mission is to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities- grassroots activists in Africa came together at AfricaSan 3, in the Rwandan capital Kigali to demand that their leaders and international governments demonstrate strong leadership and take urgent action on the continent’s critical sanitation situation.

Only 31 percent of people living in Africa have adequate access to sanitation, despite sanitation and water being a recognised human right

Civil society representatives and community leaders came together to present one voice at the only Africa-wide conference on sanitation.

In consultation with over 230 African civil society organizations (CSOs), international non-governmental organisations WaterAid, Freshwater Action Network (FAN), Water Supply and sanitation Collaborative Council (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 percent 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 AfricaSan2.1 million children under-five have died of diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation, water and hygiene in Africa,” civil society leader Doreen Wandera Kabasindi from Uganda is quoted.
“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 the backdrop 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.”

Only 31 percent 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 five percent 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.

The conference held from July 19-21, 2011 in Kigali, Rwanda attracted over 600 ministers and experts from African countries to review commitments set out in the eThekwini Declaration in 2008.

July 20, 2011

Rwanda: Reinventing the Toilet

Fredrick Mugira and Frank Rijsberman
July 20, 2011

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced more than $41 million in grants to spark new innovations in sanitation.

The announcement was made by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President of the foundation’s Global Development program in her keynote address at the Third Africa Conference on Hygiene and Sanitation (AfricaSan 3). The conference held from July 19-21, 2011 in Kigali, Rwanda is being hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).

The grants will benefit a group of organizations that are taking the initiative to change the way people think about, and talk about sanitation.

A makeshift latrine

“To address the needs of the 2.6 billion people who don’t have access to safe sanitation, we not only must reinvent the toilet, we also must find safe, affordable and sustainable ways to capture, treat, and recycle human waste,” Sylvia noted. “Most importantly, we must work closely with the local communities we aim to serve to develop lasting sanitation solutions that best meet their needs.”

Proper toilets are fundamental to saving lives. It is time to ditch the taboos associated with talking about waste. It is time stop thinking about waste as waste. It is time to reinvent the toilet.

“It should be a toilet for the 21st century – a toilet for the billions whose needs are not being met,” further noted Sylvia.

“It should be a toilet that is pleasant to use and makes safe sanitation available simply and cheaply to people everywhere. It should save children’s lives by controlling disease. It should eradicate the worst job in the world, that of the latrine emptier. It should bring safety and dignity to all people, especially to women and children.”

She described such a toilet as the one created in partnership with the people who will use it.

This, she stressed demands innovation. Not just new technologies, but new ways of thinking.

Worldwide 1.1 billion people still relieve themselves outdoors

Sylvia argued that although a lot of money has been sunk into improving sanitation in the developing world, more people still live without access to improved sanitation.

“Billions of dollars have been poured into constructing toilets, sewers, and wastewater treatment facilities in the developing world. Still, due to rapid population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, there are now more people without access to improved sanitation in this region than ever before,” Syliva stressed.

“What’s clear to us is that existing sanitation solutions – ones based on 200-year-old ideas –are not meeting the challenges we face.”

Sylvia pledged that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work would continue to support efforts to raise awareness in poor communities of the consequences of inadequate sanitation – and empower them to take charge of their own solutions using existing technologies.

A brand-new:90 video – “Reinventing the Toilet” – has been produced help tell this story.

Worldwide 1.1 billion people still relieve themselves outdoors. Almost eight out of 10 people without access to both clean water and safe toilets live in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are still 570 million people without adequate sanitation.

July 19, 2011

Kenya: Burning up Mandera

Joyce Chimbi
July 19, 2011

The heat is intolerable although it is barely noon, by three O’clock in the afternoon it is usually so hot that people rarely venture outside for fear of been stricken by the much feared heat stroke.

This is Mandera, North Eastern Kenya, a hard ship area, a region characterized by persistent dry spells and temperatures of above 40 degrees Celsius; an arid region whose main source of livelihood is livestock in spite of the inconsistent rainfall.

Although dry spells are not new to this region, the situation has worsened in recent years similar to many parts of the world as a reflection of the Global severe climatic changes.

Woman fetches water to drink from a dirty well that has been scotched to near dryness in Mandera

“In Mandera, the situation has further been complicated by our lifestyle, the over-dependence on livestock has made it difficult for the region to sustain any form of vegetation,” explains the District Vet nary Officer Dr Abdirahman S. Abdalla.
“With an estimated population of one million livestock, the animals naturally clear any vegetation in sight and when there is nothing more to feed on, some of them will succumb to the food scarcity as we struggle to sustain what has always been our lifeline.”

Mandera experiences an average of 250-255 Millimeters rainfall which in a year, and based on its two rainy seasons of long rains between April and May followed by short rains between October and November, averages to about 800-850 Millimeters.

“These seasons have recently become drastically unpredictable as has the amount of water the people depend on when it rains,” Dr Abdirahman S. Abdalla.

The problem of insufficient water in the region is further compounded by an over-dependence of the people on the rivers in the region which are also seasonal and highly unpredictable.
Take River Daua for instance; a river that feeds two countries which border each other, Kenya and Ethiopia, during the rainy seasons the river fills up to its banks posing a double-edged situation.

While on one hand it provides the much needed and clean drop of water, it also becomes a life threatening situation due to its infestation with crocodiles that are responsible for loss of life among both human beings and livestock.

“Annually, about 10 people lose their lives after being attacked by crocodiles, they(crocodiles) are vicious and have all sort of tricks which enable them to ambush unsuspecting people and animals,” says the region’s Drug Management Officer , Adan Abdi Mohamed.

“However, we recently discovered that crocodiles dislike noise because in areas where we have set up pump sets for irrigation, the population of crocodiles is significantly low. Pump sets might be part of the solution to the threat posed by crocodiles but they are too expensive for the people.”

Although Mandera may appear to be an extreme scenario, to imagine that regions across the world are not experiencing severe weather conditions due to the equally severe global warming would be a fallacy.

At the moment, millions across the world are at the blink of starvation and the situation is bound to get worse if discourse on climatic changes is not accorded the priority and prominence that it deserves.

Although in Kenya there is a tree planting day set aside for people to plant a tree with the objective of improving the environment, it has not been embraced with the vigor and zeal which should characterize such a day particularly in light of the difficult times that we are currently facing where millions of Kenyans are battling with famine.

However, in spite of this grim picture, all is not lost, if urgent interventions could be put in place, we could very well save the day.

Some of these interventions, a part from planting trees, would be to have strong policies against deforestation as well as for governments to find ways to settle the ever growing population which has continued to encroach on forested areas.

There is also need for the Media to consistently set the public agenda around the need to arrest the conditions destructive to our environment and which negatively influence climatic changes because unless people begin to talk about it, very little action, if any, can be generated towards normalizing the climate.

July 15, 2011

Zambia: Japan Aids Expansion of Water Supply Facilities

Newton Sibanda
July 15th 2011

JAPAN has given Zambia 127 billion Kwacha for the repair and expansion of water supply facilities in Ndola, the administrative capital of Zambia’s Copperbelt region.

According to a statement released by the Japanese Embassy in Lusaka, “Specifically, the grant will be used to repair the Kafubu water treatment plant and the main transmission and distribution pipelines, construction of water kiosks in Kaloko area, installation of a water quality analyser and implementation of the soft component, comprising a technical assistance scheme of support for operation and maintenance systems of the facilities.”

A water kiosk in Zambia's poor neighbourhoods

The project seeks to address the challenge of high demand for water in Ndola, in view of the rising population.

About 354,000 people, mainly living in low income areas, are expected to benefit from the project by the year 2020.

The project will result in the expansion of access to safe water in target areas, thereby fulfilling basic human needs.

“The improvement of hygienic conditions and the availability of piped water through the successful completion of this project, will significantly contribute to the improvement of the quality of life,” the statement says.

July 13, 2011

Zambia: ZAMTEL Launches a 2 billion Kwacha Water Project

Newton Sibanda
July 13, 2011

ZAMBIA’s premier telecommunications company, ZAMTEL has launched a K2billion water project in which 36 boreholes will be sunk across the country.

Hans Paulsen, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer says the ‘Water for Life’ programme is aimed at giving disadvantaged communities access to clean water.

Zamtel Logo

Paulsen said in Mumbwa, a rural town about 150 km west of the capital Lusaka, during the launch of the initiative that the programme was one of the corporate social responsibility activities Zamtel has embarked on.

“The K2 billion is just for the first phase of the ‘Water for Life’ programme. Other co-operating partners are coming on board to ensure communities have access to clean drinking water,” Paulsen said.

Boreholes offer the cheapest technology option for safe water supply in most rural areas of Africa

He noted that clean drinking water is an essential commodity that can improve the health of many Zambians.

Paulsen said Zamtel values the health of the Zambian communities, hence the launch of the programme.

“This investment is about doing something that directly benefits the community,” he said.

Zamtel, which was privatized last year, is the only fixed line company in Zambia and also has a mobile phone business unit.

And Huawei Technologies Zambia country director Richard Chan donated US$10,000 towards the water programme on behalf of his company.

Chan said his company is committed to ensuring that Zambian communities have clean drinking water.

“We shall continue partnering with Zamtel to make Zambia a better place,” he said.

July 8, 2011

Tanzania: Rural Water Projects Break Gender Barriers

Gasirigwa Sengiyumva
8th July, 2011

IT is past mid-day, the overhead Sun is heating like it has never rained in Kilolo before. This is a village in Njombe Region where an organization called Kilolo Star is based. I approach a workshop and to my amazement I find a number of girls assembling a KS 1000 drilling machine before embarking on a well-drilling mission in a nearby village.

This group of girls is called Simba Mama and it has six members. It was named after the lioness by Kilolo Star founder Ronald Reed to show that the importance of rural women when it comes to providing for families cannot be neglected. In the jungle, in most cases, it’s the lioness that finds food for the cubs. The idea behind the establishment of Simba mama was to show that women could dare where men tread if given the opportunity.

Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection in Africa

Here I meet Jestina Kimata, she is 24 but her body size defeats that truth. Although she
looks smaller she is firm. She is a well driller, can you imagine? No wonder she looks stronger
and solid. She is doing what most people characterize as men’s job. For her, “kazi ni kazi,” (literally translated work is work) she says meaning it doesn’t matter what job one does so
long as it earns you an income.

“I love this job, it gives me 120,000 TZ shillings a month as salary. To me this isn’t a small thing for a rural setting like ours,” she tells. Jestina and her colleagues have been here for three years;
they fix the plant, drill the well and insert the pipe themselves. It is a very laborious job. They
have drilled over 10 wells so far in different locations such as Ihimbo, Kilowo and Ruaha
Mbuyuni to mention but a few.

“When we pick them, we base on their sharpness (ability to grasp things quickly). They (all of the students) train for three years in various fields such as carpentry, masonry and tailoring. After they are through with other training, we pick some for drilling lessons. They practice for three months. Today, they can take on a project on their own,” says Octavian Mtega, Project Manager. According to Castor Sanguya, who is the Project Director, Kilolo Star started in 2007 by Mr Reed, an American philanthropist with a passion for change.

Through his visit to the area, he saw how villagers struggled to get water. He thought of a way to bring this service to the Kilolo community. With help from friends back home in the US and few of those who were here, the project was born. Since its establishment Kilolo Star has built over 86 wells in various regions. Each well costs about 5m/- and above. The number of wells per village depends on its size and magnitude of the problem.

Focus is given to village centres where there are many people, dispensaries, primary and
secondary schools. “What we do first is to establish a problem before we embark on any drilling endevour,” says Mr Sanguya adding that they sit with village elders, find out the number of people in that village and how they get water after they have agreed on certain conditions, they drill the well.

Villagers are involved in the whole project process since it’s them who are supposed to take care of it. “It is very important for they need to own the project,” says Sanguya. According to him, they provide labour and security to the projects. For a project to be sustainable, a village contributes 30,000/- a month for the repairing of broken or worn out parts.

They have to keep that money by themselves though it’s a big challenge given the economic
situations of many people. In most cases, Kilolo Star re-services the projects on its own. Of
the 86 wells, 20 are not working properly due to various problems. “They contribute that
amount since it’s a government’s policy that citizens contribute to the provision of water
services,” says Kilolo District’s water engineer Abdi Andalu.

He says, the government is involved in the whole process and once the project is accomplished, it is given to the government which, in turns handles it to the respective village. The water projects are not only beneficial to those who are involved in the process as
source of income but also they have been a blessing to those who used to go long distances in search of this precious resource.

Three years ago, Godlove Makoyola, a rural medical officer at Ihumbo dispensary used to trek for one to 2.5 kms in search of water for use at the dispensary. Today, thanks to Kilolo Star, water flows from a tap few metres from the dispensary door. A solar powered pump
helps push water from the well to the tank mounted outside the dispensary building before it is
being used by both patients and attendants. “There are no threats of water borne related
contamination anymore, this water is very clean. Villagers also come here to fetch water.

This project is not only a relief to us but also to the entire village,” tells Mr Makoyola. The projects have also opened indirect employment chances for water vendors as well like one Severin Kiwele. He supplies clean water to government and district council employees in the area. He sells a 20 litre gallon of water at 200/- and he says he could get up to 4000/- a day.

Analysts give a thumb up to projects of this nature as they not only help develop rural settings
in terms of clean water provision but also create employment opportunities for both young men and women. “Perhaps projects like these could act as a catalyst in reducing the rural urban migration by employing youth in their own villages,” they say.

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