Key to Africa’s Progress in Water and Sanitation
- African countries that transition to taking a leadership role in safe water and sanitation service delivery can potentially increase access for millions of people by 2015.
- To accelerate progress, at least an additional US$6 billion a year of domestic and donor funds are needed.
- Households that invest in basic sanitation reap up to 7 times their initial investment in economic benefits, including health and access time.
As global powers debate ways to solve economic challenges, a more menacing fight is happening in East Africa, where the worst drought in decades has caused widespread hunger, deaths, and the loss of subsistence crops and livestock.
Even without drought conditions, 564 million and 326 million Africans, respectively, do not have access to improved sanitation or safe drinking water. Women are disproportionately affected because they spend hours fetching water or seeking sanitation facilities instead of in school or working. Lack of water and sanitation even accounts for excess mortality among girls in infancy and early childhood.
In 2000, countries in Africa and in other regions set targets to halve by 2015 the number of people without access to these basic services. Some of them may meet these targets. In rural Rwanda, where nearly 4 million people gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2008, household access to sanitation facilities has increased faster than in any other country in the region.In fact, according to a new report by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), released this week to coincide with Sweden’s annual gathering of global water experts, sub-Saharan Africa has made significant progress in extending access to improved water supply and sanitation.
Progress made since 1990 points to a combination of factors, but the key is for countries to own the responsibility for putting in place the necessary frameworks and know-how to coordinate service delivery to people nationwide.
“African countries that transition to taking a leadership role in safe water and sanitation service delivery to the millions of people without access have an unprecedented opportunity to drastically reduce these numbers by 2015,” said the report’s author and WSP Senior Financial Specialist Dominick de Waal.
Increasing Funding Levels to the Sector
The report added that accelerating progress requires increasing current funding levels by at least US$6 billion a year by raising both domestic and donor financing flows to the sector.
The prospects and incentives for countries to make this shift to country-led service delivery are unprecedented. Improving political stability, economic growth, debt relief, increasing aid volume, and the accompanying renaissance of country-led service delivery in other sectors in Africa, mean opportunities to make an impact are more favorable now than they have been in recent times.
Improving Quality of Life
Improving access means improved quality of life for millions. A separate WSP study released later this week out of East Asia will show that households that invest in basic sanitation reap up to seven times the initial investment in economic benefits, including health and access time.
Despite current global economic challenges, African countries have a unique opportunity now to accelerate progress in delivering safe water and sanitation to the millions without.