The water and sanitation challenges that confront Africa are not new. What is new however is the growing determination by development actors to stand to the different challenges heads on.
The 6th Africa Water Week in Dar es Salam July 18-22, 2016 provided the right opportunity for researchers, civil society actors, government officials to show how determined the different actors are to find lasting solutions to the age old water and sanitation problems in the continent.It also provided the opportunity to share experiences on different pathways to sound hygiene in water management and success stories that could be replicated in other countries.
According to Pierce Cross, senior advisor USAID, the problems of access to water and sanitation in Africa are stark and cuts across the different countries. He thus called for a comprehensive plan of action to accompany demonstrated political will by different African governments and other actors to improve on the situation.
“ Demonstrated political will must be accompanied by concrete action plans to move the water and sanitation commitment forward,” said Piers Cross at a side-event discussion under the theme “The AfricaSan Commitment on Sanitation and Hygiene and the SGDs.
The discussions accordingly aimed at deepening the ownership and monitoring of the commitments by different governments to improve on water, sanitation and hygiene. Experts called for heightened behavior change and the establishment of a community driven culture to ensure better treatment of water for consumption to reduce the risk of contamination and disease.
“ We have frequently advised for better treatment of water before consumption by local communities. The carrying out of frequent water tests to ensure its safety from all types of contaminants is imperative,” says Sophie Hicklings, development consultant in Kenya.
She cautions that even pipe water from public systems can pick up impurities during distribution, thus the need for effective monitoring and control. Experts recommended defluoridation process that will help reduce the possibilities of contracting waterborne diseases. Waterborne diseases experts cautioned are fast killers. According to WHO diseases like cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever are common in many countries in Africa, rooted in poor water treatment systems.
Other nasty and almost equally dangerous diseases from water include as salmonella, diarrhoea, Hepatitis A etc.
These diseases, in most cases experts say, erupt in heavily congested, unsanitary squatter areas in urban centres or in rural villages where water is drawn from unconventional places like ponds, rivers etc. The ailments accordingly are caused by pathogenic microorganisms that most commonly are transmitted in contaminated fresh water. Infections commonly results during bathing, washing, drinking or consumption of unclean, infected food.
Reason to Hope
But all is not gloomy as there are considerable efforts on the ground by development organizations working in partnership with governments and local communities to improve on water sanitation.
In a press briefing on the sidelines of the 6th Africa WaterWeek, July 21, Lydia Zigomo, head of WaterAid, East Africa region pointed out that efforts by WaterAid to improve on education and awareness in local communities were bringing positive results in water hygiene.
“The collective progress of any community depends greatly on the education of its people and WaterAid is leaving no stone unturned in this direction,” Lydia Zigomo said. She said emphasis is laid on education and sensitization because “the more the population receive quality education, the more benefits the communities reap especially in sanitation and good health.” She expressed optimism with better healthcare delivery that is increasingly gathering momentum in many African countries on a global scale in line with the new sustainable development agenda.
The 6th Africa Water Week, organized by African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) and other development partners, seeks to lay pathways for Africa’s drive towards achieving the SDG 6, with emphases on water and sanitation.