Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tackling global water and sanitation crisis is not about charity: Sirleaf

It will not be possible to make progress in eradicating poverty... without improving access to water and sanitation, the Liberian President said on Thursday. (Photo Credit: Channels TV, Nigeria)

“Addressing the global water and sanitation crisis is not about charity, but opportunity,” Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said at the launch of WaterAid’s report ‘Everyone Everywhere’ on Thursday in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The March 21, 2013 report, released on the 20th anniversary of World Water Day, sets out a vision for making safe water and sanitation available to all and reviews the progress that has been made to date in tackling water and sanitation poverty.

The World Health Organisation said “every $1 invested in water and sanitation produces an average of $4 in increased productivity. It enables sustainable and equitable economic growth”. 

In short, Madam Sirleaf said, it will not be possible to make progress in eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and securing sustainable economic development in the future without improving access.

Ambitious target

Governments can make water and sanitation for all Africans a reality by 2030, says WaterAid, which calls on international leaders “to support an ambitious target of providing access to water, sanitation and hygiene”.

The agency urges world leaders to: “Recognise the need for the framework that replaces the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 to reflect the contribution of water, sanitation and hygiene to other areas of poverty reduction, including health, education, gender equality, economic growth and sustainability,

“For the UN to set a new global target to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, and

“Identify ways of accelerating future rates of progress on sanitation if the goal of universal access is to be met by 2030.”

Long road

Nelson Gomonda, WaterAid Pan-Africa Programme Manager said: “Nothing could better demonstrate that our continent has truly begun to realise its potential and is coming true on its promise of progress and development, than achieving the fundamental goal of every African having safe drinking water.”

“330 million Africans today live without access to clean water, so the road to travel is long, but we can for the first time see the end in sight,” Gomonda said. “With more than 1,000 African children under the age of five dying every day from diseases brought about from a lack of water and sanitation, Africans will not accept failure.” 

“We have to reach this target,” Gomonda stressed.

Brake on progress

The report said lack of progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene is acting as a brake on progress in economic and human development particularly in child health, nutrition and education. 

WaterAid cites World Health Organisation (WHO) figures that show the economic gains that Africa could make through everyone on the continent having access to water and sanitation.
The benefits for Africa in lives saved from everyone having access to water and sanitation on the continent are also significant. 

“Africa could gain $33 billion every year from everyone having access to water and sanitation. Of this $4.5 billion would come from reduced healthcare costs; $7.2 billion could be gained from reduced mortality; $2 billion from less time taken off from work; and a staggering $19.5 billion in general time saved,” according to the WHO.

World Walks 

The Institute of Health Metrics estimates show that around 550,000 people die of diarrhoea diseases every year in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this figure, the WHO said 88% can be attributed to a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene that equates to 480,000 deaths due to a lack of these services on the continent.

Over 50,000 people take part in more than 30 mass walking events across Africa to call on their governments to keep their promises on access to clean water and safe sanitation. They are joining more than 350,000 people worldwide who are participating in World Walks for Water and Sanitation between Saturday 16 and Saturday 23 March.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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