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WaterAid calls for urgent action to increase access to sanitation across Africa

As leaders gather for the Third African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene in Rwanda (AfricaSan 3, 19-21 July 2011), WaterAid warns that Africa is facing increasing inequality in access to one of the continent’s most basic services and that action needs to be taken urgently.
The international development organisation will present the findings of recent research at the conference, showing that the poorest, most marginalised and most in-need people across Africa are missing out on access to safe sanitation.
According to WaterAid, this inequity is having dire consequences on the health, wealth and development of the continent. Figures show that a staggering 2.1 million children under the age of five have died from diarrhoea caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene since the last AfricaSan conference held three years ago in South Africa.
Diarrhoea, linked to inadequate sanitation, is now recognised as the biggest killer of children in Africa, and it is estimated that lack of safe water and sanitation costs the region around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year.
WaterAid is urging ministers meeting at the conference to keep their promises to prioritise and invest in sanitation, particularly ensuring that they reach Africa’s poorest and most marginalised people, and to work together to accelerate progress towards the Sanitation and Water for All global partnership.
WaterAid in Nigeria Country Representative, Joe Lambongang, said: “With over 500 million of our continent’s people living without access to a toilet, the promises and resolutions already passed by governments in Africa have clearly not been realised.
“Our research shows that it is the poorest of the poor who are missing out on these most basic human necessities, having a massive impact on the development of our country and indeed the whole of our continent. For Africa to truly flourish, leaders at AfricaSan must honour their commitments and now deliver on the promises they have made.”
New research from WaterAid shows that the inequity is fuelled by poor targeting of aid by both donor countries and African governments. The key findings are as follows:
·         Not enough international aid for water and sanitation is going to Sub-Saharan Africa, the continent most off-track for the Millennium Development Goals, with large amounts going to middle-income countries in richer regions.
·         Furthermore, within African countries, investments in water and sanitation are not going to those with the greatest need, resulting in the poorest of the poor and the most marginalised groups missing out on sanitation.
AfricaSan will see over 600 ministers and experts from African countries meet in Kigali to review commitments set out in the eThekwini Declaration in 2008.
To mark AfricaSan, WaterAid has collaborated with UNICEF and the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) to produce a Traffic Lights discussion paper, highlighting the gaps between government commitments on sanitation and action taken across Africa. The paper shows that Nigeria is among the all but four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that remain off-track to meet the sanitation MDG. Despite strong commitments to provide access to clean water and adequate sanitation, less than 0.5% of the nation’s GDP is allocated to sanitation and there remain many critical areas which require urgent attention.

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