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WaterAid outlines strategies for delivering sanitation services to urban poor

Water supply and sanitation has not kept space with rapid rate of population increase in most developing countries including Nigeria. Lack of access is most prevalent among low income earners living in the peripheral of areas- slums, squatters and outskirts.

These areas, though densely populated in most cases are not covered by conventional Water supply and sanitation systems, and are often forgotten in all levels of sectoral planning as most government and External support agencies Water supply and sanitation projects are focused on residents of main urban areas, small towns and rural areas. The urban are neglected, forgotten and exploited by informal providers.

These are the issues that formed the plank of a global report released by WaterAid, this Monday. Titled, ‘Sanitation and water for poor urban communities: a manifesto’, the report argues that the reasons for lack of access of poor urban communities are much less an issue of scarcity of water than political prioritisation of a more equitable distribution of WASH services.

Makoko in Lagos, like other slums in Nigeria lack access to potable water and safe sanitation

Calling on national governments to put the highest political priority on the provision of water and sanitation services to poor urban communities, WaterAid said: ‘Access to safe sanitation services are a fundamental to human health and development, especially in densely populated urban areas.

With no indication that the pace of urbanisation, and subsequently the growth in poor urban areas, will slow, the international community must act collaboratively to ensure these basic human rights are afforded to poor urban communities – and it must act now.

The consequence of failure to act ‘open defecation and living without access to safe drinking water. National governments and donors must therefore develop a tangible agenda, including sources of funds, for addressing the water and sanitation needs of the slum, peri-urban and small town dweller as a first step out of poverty’.

To reverse the neglect of slum-dwellers’ rights to sanitation and water supply, the report calls on National Governments to develop a  guiding vision statement and clear programme of action by city authorities, develop a a global 15 year programme could provide the water and sanitation needed to guarantee health and human dignity for poor urban communities, and kick-start economic growth; put safe sanitation and water for poor communities at the centre of integrated city-wide plans for urban basic services; develop and implement pre-emptive actions for small towns and cities, with adequate urban climate change preparedness plans and resilient WASH infrastructure; provide the human and administrative infrastructure to receive; use technical and material assistance for developing and implementing pro-poor plans; and establish an accurate urban baseline and improve indicators to enhance pro-poor targeting of interventions.

The report also calls on National Governments to  ensure coordination of existing monitoring frameworks and collaboration between departments responsible for lands, housing, urban development and water supply and sanitation services; put the targeting of sanitation and water services to informal settlements/slums as an explicit policy commitment; ensure that slum-dwellers and squatter communities are not denied the right to WASH services because of a lack of legal landholding entitlements; and ensure that the representatives of slum communities participate in the design and implementation of sanitation and water policies.

They are also expected to mount advocacy towards ensuring that  UNHABITAT focuses its attention on delivering its core function of  knowledge development on pro-poor urban development and planning;  leveraging and mobilising public investments and private capital for slum upgrading, shelter development and the delivery of basic services; as well as ensuring the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) to take up the vacant seats on UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council.

TheSanitation and water for  poor urban communities: a manifesto’, also urges International donors to develop or support organisational structures capable of meeting the needs of sub-national and national governments and institutions responsible for urban services; prioritise and raise awareness of the rights of poor urban communities to water and sanitation by establishing urban policies, strategies and investment programmes that reflect their needs, improving the targeting of urban investments to slums and informal settlements; and support development and investment plans that aid the provision of urban WASH.

They are also called upon to establish urban policies, strategies and investment programmes that promote disaggregated data reporting, to improve the targeting of urban investments to slums and informal settlements and support municipal authorities’ development plans and statistics, and will enhance the development of appropriate indicators to improve pro-poor targeting of interventions within urban plans; and ensure development aid for urban investments is targeted at people living in poverty

Reacting  to the report, the Bread of Life Development Foundation, in a statement signed by its Project Officer, Njideka Onwunyi, said ‘the WaterAid’s report is very relevant to Nigeria as the issue of urban water supply and sanitation will become very critical in the coming years given the rapid rate of urbanisation. Unless major strides are made, tens of millions of Nigerians in urban areas will continue to drink water from unimproved sources with its attendant health implications and practice open defecation’.

Quoting figures released by the Word Health Organisation –Joint Monitoring Platform, the statement said: “24 million people in urban areas in Nigeria remain without access to improved sources of drinking water in 2006 and 54m people in urban areas have not access to improved sanitation facilities in 2006.

The proportion of the urban population with access to improved sources of drinking water in Nigeria decreased by 15% from 80% (5million) in 1990 to 65% (24 million) in 2006.

The decrease by 15% in 16 years is very significant at a time that the proportion of the population living in urban areas increased from 30% in 1990 to 49% in 2006. The number of people without access to improved sanitation in urban centres increased from 17 million in 1990 to 45 million in 2006.”


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