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Africasan3-Special report

The Third African Sanitation and Hygiene Conference, was recently held in Kigali, Rwanda. The  objectives were to take stock of progress made by African countries since 2008 and the progress needed to meet the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation by 2015; to review progress on implementing the 2008 eThekwini Declaration; to share advances in sanitation and hygiene in Africa; to support the development of country sanitation and hygiene action plans, and to raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene as determinants of sustainable development.

A key observation was that up to 584 million people in Africa do not as yet have access to safe sanitation  services and that this “hidden scandal” is devastating to health and quality of life. Progress was however  noted, with Rwanda cited as an example of how progress could be achieved with political will, hard work  and pragmatism. In addition, peer-reviewed action plans to nudge countries to meet the sanitation  MDGs are now prepared in 38 African countries, with over 34 of them tackling the problem of open  defecation through adoption of Community Led Sanitation Programs, while use of the nutrients and chemicals in waste and excreta to help solve food sufficiency challenges is on the rise.

Ministers in attendance committed themselves and their governments to continuing efforts to meet the sanitation needs of the region; to refocus on home-grown solutions; to share experiences and best practices, and to advocate continued focus on the sanitation and hygiene sector.

The crucial role played by utilities and local government leadership in the improvement and management of sanitation services was recognized. Utilities and local governments represented committed themselves to developing innovative and affordable sanitation technologies, as well as capacity and networks; to formulating robust sanitation-focused policies, and to financing and laying down requisite regulation, norms and standards.

Donor agencies exchanged views on strategies for supporting sanitation in Africa, with a focus on approaches that improve services for the poor. On their part, civil society groups committed themselves to increased focus on equity and inclusion, to improved planning and monitoring, to stronger focus on coordination and capacity building, as well as to better transparency.

Countries committed themselves to identifying outstanding policy gaps, accelerating the implementation of policies and strategies, embedding capacity-building into sector strategies and action plans, improving management of existing financial resources through better planning, targeting and tracking, continuing to lobby to establish specific budget lines for sanitation, making the case for significant increases in sanitation budgets, moving more quickly from pilot approaches to solutions that can work at scale, renewing efforts to develop tracking tools which link performance to budget allocations, and establishing effective national and local-level monitoring.


Further, they committed themselves to six-monthly reviews of agreed actions over the next two years, to be reviewed by sector leaders and submitted to the AfricaSan Task Force.

The conference noted a growing understanding of the dynamics of behaviour change as relates to sanitation and hygiene, modelled on commercial product development processes, with focus shifting to what motivates change in specific communities and making this the cornerstone of sanitation programs.

Local governments were urged to clarify their sanitation responsibilities, adopt more holistic approaches and find ways of stimulating partnership with the private sector to exploit the potential of waste as a resource. Improving Faecal Sludge Management was identified as a significant new area of learning that needs incorporation within citywide systems, with effective business models developed and implemented.

There were sessions to update participants on the effects of neglecting sanitation on equity, economic growth, health and food security. Also addressed were aspects of sanitation sector management and financing, with Rwandan president Kagame advising on the need to first utilize funds “ in our own backyards” rather than depend on hand-outs.

Also featured was an enthusiastically-attended Technical Fair that enabled the exchange of recent research findings and technical innovations in an informal setting.

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