Archive for April, 2012

April 21, 2012

High Level Meeting Sets Course Towards Water and Sanitation for All

Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
April 20th, 2012

Government ministers from almost 40 developing countries met with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, UK International Development Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell, Chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation HRH the Prince of Orange, and major donors and water and sanitation sector organizations, to discuss speeding up global access to water and sanitation yesterday

The April 20 Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting came ahead of the World Bank’s Spring Meetings this week.

One of pictures that were exhibited during the 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille France showing Women meditating in water.

It brought together the SWA Partnership of donors and agencies with 69 ministers responsible for finance, sanitation and hygiene portfolios.

The meeting was the second of its kind, and came against the backdrop of an announcement in March from UNICEF and the World Health Organization that the world had met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for improved drinking water sources, but that many still lack safe water, and that the target for improved sanitation is lagging far behind and will not be met at current rates of progress.

“Forty years ago exactly, in a triumph of science, engineering, and technology, Apollo 16 landed on the moon. It was the fifth mission to do so,” Lake says, “yet today, 1.1 billion people still practice open defecation because they lack the most basic sanitation facilities.” He continues: “If, two generations ago, we landed men on the moon, we can and we must afford people here on earth their most basic needs.”

His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana and newly appointed chair of the SWA partnership, emphasizes the need for governments to act urgently.

“It is time to focus our energies on neglected areas and neglected people. The dream of universal access to sanitation and water is within our reach, but a tremendous increase in political will, adequate resources and coordinated efforts is required to get us there,” Kufuor says.

The High Level Meeting was moderated by Ambassdor Jan Eliasson, who has recently been named by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the United Nations’ fourth Deputy Secretary-General. Currently Chair of WaterAid Sweden, Eliasson is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advocates Group for the Achievement of the MDGs. He notes that sanitation and hygiene are now being recognized as a cornerstone of development, security and well-being, and key to the welfare of the citizens of the world.

Eliasson says, the Minister, “are mindful of the economic value of sanitation and water to developing economies, but also of the human value.” “They have in mind the children who must be protected from illness, the boys and girls who must go to school, the women who must be freed from back-breaking labor. I know that the world is watching us – and I think those people are applauding.”

One of pictures that were exhibited during the 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille France showing children bathing.

According to UNICEF, at least 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea occur in children under five years of age every year, and an estimated 3,000 children die from it daily. The World Bank says huge savings in health care costs and gains in productive days can be realized by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene and could amount to over 7% of gross domestic product, depending on the country. The economic gains to be made from investing in sanitation and water are estimated at US $170 billion per year. If everyone had access to adequate sanitation and water services, the world`s health sectors would save around $15 billion every year.

Organizers were hoping to build on the success of the first High Level Meeting in 2010, also convened by UNICEF at the World Bank, which led to increased focus and commitments from countries and donors. The 2012 meeting was greatly expanded, with 40 countries taking part, up from 18 in 2010. Of those present in 2010, nine countries have confirmed that they are meeting their commitments of increased budget allocations; and seven of the 13 donors present in 2010 have met or exceeded the targets they set for funding. Countries have also reported improved coordination and accountability among different institutions and almost half the donors have increased alignment with national planning processes.

April 16, 2012

Risk of Sanitation and Water Supply Services Slipping Behind

By UN Water
Photos by Fredrick Mugira
April 16th 2012

While access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has considerably improved globally, services coverage could slip behind if adequate resources are not secured to sustain routine operations, warns the 2012 UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water – or “GLAAS” – released last week by WHO and UN-Water.

The report calls for additional and more targeted resources, especially for routine operation and maintenance of existing systems and services.

Adequate resources such as these men constructing a water tank are needed to sustain routine operation and maintenance of existing WASH systems and services

“Since its inception in 2007, UN-Water GLAAS has earned its place among water, sanitation and hygiene monitoring and reporting programmes and is increasingly used as the basis for better-informed decision-making,” said Mr Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. “This comes from the recognition that the scarcity of information on national sanitation and drinking-water–related policies, financing and human resources is a major barrier to progress.”

The GLAAS report presents data received from 74 developing countries, up from 43 in 2010; and from 24 bilateral and multilateral agencies covering 90% of global official development assistance funds.

Along with a chronic lack of technicians and skilled labor, countries report insufficient staff in place to operate and maintain sanitation and drinking-water infrastructure. Data suggest that funding allocations may not be sufficient to fund routine operation and maintenance. For example, one in three countries highlighted that revenues are insufficient to cover operating costs for urban utilities. Only 7% of external support is directed at maintaining services. All these factors put sustainability of water and sanitation systems at risk in many countries.

Water supply and treatment equipment

Despite the global financial crisis, the total amount of development aid for sanitation and drinking-water increased by 3% between 2008 and 2010, to US$ 7.8 billion. But only half of it is targeted to the regions where 70% of the global unserved actually live – sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and South-eastern Asia. Alignment of aid with country priorities is quite poor, with less than 5% of WASH disbursements currently made through sector budget support.

“Ultimately, this report is about optimizing the instruments we have to ensure primary prevention of a major global killer, diarrhoeal diseases, across all sectors contributing to water and sanitation progress,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment. “The major gains that have been made urgently need consolidation through investment in water services,coupled with a strengthening of financial and human resources to ensure further progress in the provision of safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”.

Political-will exists and all countries have made some form of political or financial commitment to sanitation and drinking-water since 2010. The vast majority have established transparent national targets and most have established planning and coordination processes. However, in many cases, political will has not yet catalysed the enabling environment required to spur progress and planning is not supported by adequate information and data. Despite impressive global gains, most countries are falling short on meeting their own national commitments, with 83% and 70% of countries reportedly falling significantly behind the trends required to meet their defined national access targets for sanitation and drinking-water, respectively.

The Aquaplenty, a simple and robust ‘water from air’ production device powered by renewable energy and created by H2OnSite B.V. Such a device needs experts for routine operation and maintenance

Nearly 80% of countries recognize the right to water, and just over half of them the right to sanitation. Realizing the rights to water and sanitation may help targetingresources to unserved population and avoid discrimination in the provision of WASH services. However, just one in five countries consistently applies equity criteria in funding allocations for sanitation, whereas one third applies equity criteria to drinking-water investments.

Beyond 2015 and the MDG period, achieving new targets related to the goal of universal access to drinking-water and sanitation will require a concerted efforts and the allocation of vast resources. Focusing on effectively managing assets to sustain services can be as important as focusing on new infrastructure. In order to better target and use scarce resources more efficiently, it is necessary to have a better understanding of what is being done and by whom, and to identify the critical inputs leading to success. GLAAS is increasingly used as a tool for more informed decision-making and is taking up the challenge of making necessary information available, in particular with the development of methodologies to monitor financial flows and to assess the demand for appropriately skilled people.

GLAAS is a report of UN-Water coordinated by the World Health Organization. It monitors the inputs required to extend and sustain water, sanitation and hygiene systems and services. Building on the results of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, GLAAS analyses the underlying reasons for success – or lack thereof.

April 13, 2012

Malawi: Farmers Blame Poor Harvests on Untimely Weather Forecasts

George Mhango, Blantyre, Malawi
April 13, 2012

This year, Stelia Likisi and his family from village headman Alfazema, Traditional Authority Mulolo in Malawi’s lower-shire district of Nsanje District will have no food, money to pay for school fees and afford a decent life.

Likisi complains that the crops they planted during the dry planting season as per their custom did not germinate at all due to delayed downpour and dry spells contrary to past rainfall patterns that brought about bumper yields.

Stelia Likisi (extreme left) pose for a photo with other women as two Lions Club members (C) look on

She states that the dry spell also affected her fellow villagers until January, this year, when there was heavy and stormy rains which caused havoc on houses, property and animal production.

“Most of us have learnt the bitter way of not taking heed of weather reports. Imagine, we have lost money which was invested in farming,” laments Likisi, a mother of six children.

A visit to Mbwazi EPA showed that although most communities replanted maize after the failed dry planting, floods swept away their crops on the night of January 25. Nsanje District Commissioner Rodney Simwaka said 6 000 flood victims had their various crops washed away.

It was also proved that villagers in Osiyana, Khambadza, Sambani, Makhapa and Lalonga villages will have nothing to eat because the dry spell has already affected their replanted crops.

This therefore means that Likisi and a thousand others are now victims of irreversible damages to crop and livestock production due to what a 2010 Malawi report to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) says harsh effects of climate change in the district.

An elder, TA Mulolo addressing his subjects on the dry spell and climate change

For Rex Chapota an agricultural expert who specializes in communication and also executive director of Farm Radio such experience where people plant crops without adhering to weather forecasts means lack of enough awareness on weather forecasts.
“Climate change affects the way the farming calendar and season have to be looked at and how dynamic farming has become hence the need to increase efforts of raising awareness. For example, gone are the days when they believed in dry planting using past experience,” he states.

Chapota then thinks some farmers are still used that come Mid October every year planting rains would come yet these days it even reaches January before planting rains come in other parts.

Nsanje North legislator in Malawi’s government dominated parliament Frank Viyazhi said recently farmers rely on field officers however, he said government should intensify awareness for them to understand climate change and weather.

“Forecasting is quite helpful and farmers should not take things for granted that they should plant based on the ancient calendar. This is what I also advise people in my area so we escape from annual devastating floods,” Viyazhi said.

Malawi’s acting director of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Gray Munthali says the department is not to blame saying when the weather forecast is issued, users like farmers are encouraged to get advice from their line ministries, using existing communication channels.

He explains that seasonal, forecasts cover the period October to March for planning purposes and the interpretation for farmers is through the Ministry responsible for Agriculture.

“For operational purposes, the department issues ten-day and daily forecasts which help farmers to make meaningful decisions,” Munthali notes.

But press officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Sarah Tione says information on rainfall pattern from the Ministry aims to assist farmers to know when to expect the first rain, rainfall pattern and distribution across Malawi.

She said in the face of climate change this helps farmers to decide when to plant apart from their farming experience because weather conditions and reports have changed this time around.

Tione also blamed some farmers who she said prefer to use their experience rather than getting rainfall distribution data from the extension workers placed in their localities.

“It is not a big problem but as a Ministry, we just have to encourage our farmers to combine their farming experience and issues of climate change. We have now begun promoting Climate Smart Agriculture or conservation farming,” she said.

But Farm Radio Malawi officials think all stakeholders in the farming systems have enough knowledge and should share the knowledge appropriately and using various channels.

“That is why now, as an organization we are exploring ways of ensuring that farm radio programs can interpret the weather forecasts in line with issues of agriculture since the weather forecasts normally are general and not only for farmers,” Chapota says.

The climate change and meteorological acting director, Munthali says for farmers to utilise weather reports for good planting key stakeholders should have brainstorming sessions in view of the advances in technology so as to improve communication between authorities and farmers.

“The model of using extension workers to pass on information has been there for quite a long time. Perhaps it is high time it was reviewed. Once reviewed farmers would devise resourceful ways to cope with and adapt to adverse impacts of extreme weather events,” Munthali states.

The Department is also implementing a project, on pilot basis, to improve the dissemination of weather and climate information and products to the grassroot level and currently the selected districts are Karonga, Kasungu, Salima, Zomba, Mulanje, Chikhwawa and Nsanje.

Nsanje and Chikhwawa are part of the pilot phase in line with a September 2009 study by Bunda College of the University of Malawi which shows that communities are vulnerable to different climate risks, including flooding, shorter rains, dry spells, late rains, drought and strong winds.

“Floods and drought were mentioned by all vulnerable communities as being the most climate change risks affecting adaptation efforts,” noted Dr. David Mkwambisi, one of the researchers.

Agriculture experts, Farm Radio Malawi and the Ministry of Agriculture have stepped up efforts to provide civic education.

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