LatinoSan 2007 Draws Media Attention to Sanitation

In its second day, LatinoSan 2007 has overcome initial expectations of the organizers: Around 900 participants from 43 countries, among them high-level sector authorities from 22 Latin American countries, representatives from the International Cooperation, NGOs, Community Leaders, sector professionals, and academia, have come together around a key issue: How to accelerate progress toward achieving the MDG sanitation target in Latin America?   A report on the state of sanitation in 21 countries was released yesterday at the conference.

In Latin America, 132 million people do not have access to basic sanitation. LatinoSan seeks to create awareness of the critical situation in the Region: Despite economic growth and progress made in terms of water coverage, Latin America has the highest inequality rates in the world with a GINI Regional average of 0.48 (Source WDR 2006).  The most affected are the poor, who are excluded from basic sanitation facilities.  

LatinoSan captured the attention of the local and international press, who are covering the event on a daily and showing interest in the challenges the continent is facing due to the lack of safe sanitation in poor rural and peri-urban areas.  A group of 30 journalists comprised of international and local professionals will participate in a capacity building program on Wednesday November 14 with key note speakers, such as the Vice Minister of Water and Sanitation of Colombia, Leyla Rojas, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director, Jean Gogh, Chief of the Sector Division from the Inter-American Development Bank, Federico Basañes, WSP-LAC Regional Team Leader, Francois Brikke, among others.  

To face this challenge that hinders development and the welfare of people, especially from women and children, the conference’s main output will be the Cali Declaration to be signed by 22 Latin American countries committing to the inclusion of sanitation in their political agendas as priority and main poverty reduction strategy.  The conference also spotlights key issues:

  • Hygiene Education and Excreta Disposal
  • Integral solid and water waste management
  • Environmental and Basic Sanitation Management
  • Prevention and Control of water resource pollution

As part of LatinoSan cultural activities, WSP-LAC and Universidad del Valle Research Center, CINARA, organized a Latin American video competition on sanitation. Thirty videos participated in the contest, from which the winner will have the opportunity to attend AfricaSan, to be held in Durban from February 18-20. The Award Ceremony will take place on Thursday November 15th. Creativeness and innovation were the evaluation criteria to select the best samples of the artistic work that can be done in Latin America about a topic that is taboo for many people.  

November 13, 2007

 22 Latin American countries have come together at LatinoSan 2007 with the goal of raising the profile of sanitation in poverty reduction.  The first Ministerial Latin American Conference on Sanitation, being held in Cali, Colombia through the 16th of November, is calling on countries to commit to the Cali Declaration.  The agreement would push countries to include sanitation as priority national agenda items as an important contribution in the fight to end poverty in the region.  

The Colombian Minister of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development, Juan Lozano, inaugurated the gathering.  With the participation of more than 15 ministers, vice ministers, and high level advisors of sanitation issues, LatinoSan is one of the most relevant efforts in Latin America to mobilize human and financial resources to face the sanitation crisis in the region.   It is also the first of several regional conferences that will mark 2008, declared the UN's International Year of Sanitation. 

The opening ceremony was marked by the keynote speech by The Prince of Orange, Sir Willem Alexander, president of the Water and Sanitation Consultative Board of the United Nations’ General Assembly (UNSGAB).  Dr. Leyla Rojas, Vice Minister of Water and Sanitation of Colombia, declared, “LatinoSan 2007 is the opportunity to revise the current situation of the water and sanitation sector and coverage with regards to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Sanitation is a topic nobody wants to talk about.  Now, with LatinoSan, it is time to conduct an open dialogue and focus especially on the poor, who are the most affected by limited access to basic sanitation." 

Other Presentations included:

Ede Ijjasz- Manager, WSP: Perspectivas Regionales Sobre Saneamiento y Higiene

Dr. Mauricio Pardón- WH  OPS/OMS en el Año Internacionale de Saneamiento, 2008

François Brikké- Regional Team Leader, WSP LAC: Saneamiento para el Desarrollo

Alan Court- Global Programme Manager, UNICEF: Speech to Delegation 

Main organizers of the event are the Colombian Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development, the Regulatory Commission for Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation, Del Valle University and WSS Research Center CINARA, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP-LAC).

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Beatriz Schippner
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