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African leaders commit to delivering safe water, basic toilets and hygiene to their people
A group of Sub-Saharan African leaders have pledged to work harder to reach 325 million people on the continent that do not have access to safe water and 644 million who have to get by without basic toilets.
Around 20 countries, including 14 from Sub-Saharan Africa, have promised to provide all citizens with access to safe water, basic toilets and hygiene by 2030. Further, 16 Sub-Saharan African leaders have promised to eliminate open defecation in their countries by 2030.
The pledges came as representatives of more than 50 governments gathered in Washington, DC last Friday for the 'Sanitation & Water for All' high level meeting, opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting with warnings that the crisis in water and sanitation will hold back efforts to eradicate poverty.
"Achieving sanitation and water for all may not be cost-free - but it will set people free," he argued. "Access to sanitation and water means a child free of disease, a woman free of the back-breaking chore to fetch water, a girl free to attend school without fear, a village free of cholera, and a world of greater equality and dignity for all," he said.
WaterAid, a founding partner in the Sanitation & Water for All partnership, welcomed the commitments.
"WaterAid welcomes the pledges African governments have made at the meeting to provide safe water and basic toilets," said Barbara Frost, WaterAid Chief Executive. "What is crucial now will be action to deliver those promises. One thousand children in Sub-Saharan Africa die every day from this health crisis. Safe water, basic toilets and proper hand-washing with soap can save those lives."
Among the specific commitments were:
* Zambia has pledged 75% access to safe water and 60% access to sanitation by 2015 and universal access to safe water and 90% access to sanitation by 2030
* Burkina Faso has pledged to bring potable water to 4.5 million more people in 2015 and to address open defecation by improving sanitation for 3 million people.
* Ethiopia has pledged to have 98.5% of its population with access to water and everyone with access to basic sanitation by 2015.
* Nigeria has pledged to end open defecation and achieve universal access to water and sanitation by 2025
Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor, chair of the Sanitation & Water for All partnership, told participants that he would hold them to their promises.
"Sanitation & Water for All is an important mechanism to not just learn from each other, but to hold ourselves accountable for results - results that benefit the poorest and most vulnerable people," he said.
New data from the World Health Organisation and Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme on Water Supply & Sanitation show the massive and growing inequalities in access to safe water and toilets around the world: 748 million globally without safe water and 2.5 billion without proper sanitation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there remain 325 million without safe water and 644 million without basic sanitation.
Of the 1 billion people around the world still practicing open defecation, 227 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa; 9 in 10 of them live in rural areas.
Safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene can prevent illness and make a community healthier and more productive. They can also prevent infant and child mortality, improve rates of education, and prevent the vulnerability that comes when women and girls tasked with fetching water must walk long distances to do so, or when they do not have a safe place to relieve themselves.
"This crisis has had a devastating impact on Sub-Saharan Africa's economy, development, and families. But sanitation is now recognised as essential in ending extreme poverty. Our challenge is to reach our poorest and most excluded and ensure that everyone's right to water and sanitation is met in our lifetime.
"These pledges from African governments are a big step towards realising a healthier and more prosperous future for our continent," said Nelson Gomonda, pan-African programme manager for WaterAid.
In total, government ministers from 44 developing countries made 265 commitments to increase access to water and sanitation, including promises to address massive inequalities in access, including between urban and rural residents, rich and poor, and among ethnic groups and regions.
WaterAid has made its own commitments toward a vision of reaching everyone, everywhere by 2030 with safe water and sanitation, as a founding partner in the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership of more than 90 country governments, donors, civil society organisations and other development partners.
Source: African Media Agency
17th April 2014