Senegalese President officially declared open the 4th African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene -AfricaSan4 this morning in Dakar, Senegal with a warning that Africa cannot afford to miss the Sanitation for all target by 2030.
Organised by the Africa Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW) the largest inter-governmental body on Water and Sanitation in Africa comprising 54 Ministers of Water Resource ministries in Africa, AfricaSan4’s theme is ‘Making Sanitation a reality in Africa’.
Said President Sall to over 1000 delegates that gathered in to deliberate on how to achieve universal access to sanitation to all Africans: we must not ‘miss another opportunity to have our people fail to have access to improved sanitation. As we come up with a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, Africa can no longer afford to miss the goals by 2030,” he said during his inaugural address.
Sall’s warning is informed by the failure of African leaders to largely meet past commitments to accelerate sanitation access in Africa. These past commitments were the 2000 MDG7 target 10, the 2008 ethekwini commitments, and the 2014 High Level Meeting Sanitation and Water for All commitments.
The meeting which has drawn participants from about 32 African member states has been organised by the Senegalese Government and the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) is aimed at enabling countries to share experiences towards achieving their eThekwini declaration.
In 2008 African countries including Malawi signed the eThekwini Declaration at a meeting held in South Africa which among other things calls for sanitation finanacing, development and implementation of sanitation, information, minitoring systems and tools and build and strengthen capacity for sanitation and hygiene implementation.
Delegates face grim facts as they deliberate on ways to turn past policy commitments into implemented programs.
According to the WHO/UNICEF/JMP figures, in 2012, 115m urban residents in Africa rely on shared toilet or public sanitation facilities, and 65m people in rural areas did. Seven out of ten people in Africa, about 230m people, are without sanitation and are living in rural areas, most of them practice open defecation. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people practising open defecation increased by 6m from 277m to 233m.
In 2012, sanitation coverage was less than 25% in 21 countries in Africa, little over half (53%) of the urban population in Africa used an improved sanitation facility, while only 30% of the population in rural areas used improved sanitation facility.
‘This data reminds us of the enormity and urgency of the challenge we face’, says Bai-Mass Taal, AMCOW’s Executive Secretary.
Speakers at the conference agree that progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.
“Sanitation is improving slowly. In 2012 little over half (about 53%) of the urban population in Africa used an improved sanitation facility; only 30% of the population in rural areas did,” said Sanjay Wijesekera of UNICEF.
He said access to sanitation favours the rich while the poor continue lagging behind. He said the increase in population is not marching the resources available to improve saniation.
Senegalese Minister of Hydrauluc and Sanitation who is also AMCOW president Amadou Faye said, “There is no doubt that poor hygiene and lack of access to safe sanitation and large-scale open defecation continue to underlie major health problems, undermines economic growth, pollutes the environment, prevents girls from school attendance and traps Africans in poverty’
Contributing to the opening session, Catarina de Albuqerque – UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation said “monitoring and follow-up is important in sanitation and – as a result – putting in place proper sanitation monitoring systems are key.”