By Babatope Babalobi in Kigali, Rwanda
The Africa Sanitation and Hygiene Conference (Africasan3) www.africasan3.com ended yesterday in Kigali, Rwanda, with Africa national governments reaffirming their commitments to implementing the eThekwini Declaration (2008).
The 42 African Ministers of water, health, environment and education that participated in Africasan3, also agreed on detailed action plans to address key blockages to progress in the sanitation sector, but failed to make financial commitments on allocating 0.5% of their national GDP to sanitation.
Three years ago, AfricaSan 2, ended with the signing of the e-Thekwini Declaration by 20 African countries, that pledged to create separate budget lines for sanitation and hygiene in their countries, increase the profile of sanitation and hygiene in poverty strategies, develop and implement sanitation monitoring systems, and to commit at least 0.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The eThekwini Declaration also recognised that approximately 584 million people or more than 60% of Africa’s population do not have access to safe sanitation, and pledged to raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene on the continent, track the implementation of the e-Thekwini Declaration, establish one national plan for accelerating progress to meet national sanitation goals and the MDGs by 2015 and establish one coordinating body with specific responsibility for sanitation and hygiene, using effective and sustainable approaches which make specific impact upon the poor, women, children, youth and the un-served.
A recent report by www.washwatch.org, a group that monitors implementation of the declaration, however, shows only Equatorial Guinea, a tiny country in Central Africa has made “good progress” in the direction of allocating a minimum of 0.5% of GDP for the sanitation sector, the most vital of all the commitments, three years after the eThekwini Declaration was adopted.
Another area the African governments have not fared well in implementing the eThekwini Declaration is in developing and implementing sanitation monitoring systems. A 2011 joint report supported by WaterAid, UNICEF, CREPA and WSP shows that only four African countries (Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ethiopia and Uganda) are making progress in this regard.
Africasan3 was therefore convened to come up with strategies to ensure that African countries get on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals target for Sanitation; presently only four countries in the continent are on track to meet the target.
Commenting on the outcome of the triennial conference, civil society groups- African Civil Society Network for Water and Sanitation (ANEW), Freshwater Action (FAN), WaterAid, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the End Water Poverty Campaign in a joint press release said “the high level of participation and engagement shown by African Governments offers cause for optimism”, however, the challenge remains formidable”
If Africa is to stand any chance of getting back on track for the sanitation MDG then these plans and strategies urgently need to be resourced,” says Lydia Zigomo, WaterAid’s Head of East Africa
The ANEW however promise to engage all stakeholders to “meet all commitments at all levels”. Its Chair Leo Otakpu said its time to ‘walk the talk’. This is not the ‘the time for promises but time to enforce policies particularly the eThekwini Declaration”