Africa will have to redouble its efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on sanitation if meaningful progress is to be made, the African Water Facility Director, Kordje Bedoumra, said on Monday in Durban, South Africa.
"With eight years to go, it is clear that most African countries are unlikely to reach their Sanitation MDG targets unless approaches to sanitation change," Mr. Bedoumra, who is leading the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group delegation to the Africa Sanitation Conference (AfricaSan) in Durban, South Africa, said.
Presenting the findings of a study by the African Ministers’ Council on Water jointly funded by the African Development Bank and the World Bank, Mr. Bedoumra said for Africa to meet the MDG for water and sanitation, the number of persons served would have to double from 350 million to 700 million by 2015. Even that would still leave 200 million people without the services. Investments in the sector would also have to be doubled to some US$26 billion. The study is titled ‘Can Africa Afford to Miss the Sanitation MDG Target?’
Mr. Bedoumra said the inadequate progress in the attainment of the sanitation MDG was due, in part, to the strategy adopted. He added that the greater burden for the attainment of the goal lay with local authorities who did not have the funding to ensure the success of the programmes.
Inadequate sanitation education, rapid urbanization, population growth, and the proliferation of informal settlements were other constraints on the attainment of the MDG. The situation, Mr. Bedoumra continued, was being aggravated by extreme poverty on the continent.
The poor coordination of issues relating to sanitation at the organizational and governmental levels was another factor. The management of sanitation, Mr. Bedoumra said, was usually split between water, health and education ministries, making proper coordination difficult.
He said there was still a poor understanding of the critical role improved sanitation could play in Africa’s development. This was due, mainly, to competing priorities, including education and health.
This has resulted in sanitation being considered as a low priority not only for households, but also for local, national and regional governments and this is reflected in inadequate budget allocations. Meanwhile, strategies for the sector are largely ‘left on paper’ while the provision of trained personnel and evaluation of projects remain poor.
Mr Bedmoura called for a reversal of this trend. "Sanitation is a key building block for health, the environment, education and gender equality. Improved sanitation offers a clear route to poverty reduction and the population’s improved health status," he said.
He urged African governments and their development partners to make the issue of sanitation a priority.
The African Development Bank Group is a key sponsor of the conference that has brought together some 250 delegates, including African ministers responsible for water and sanitation or their representatives, representatives of private and public sectors, academic and donor communities as well as representatives of multilateral institutions.
Delegates from South America, the Caribbean, Southern and Eastern Asia will also share their countries’ experiences in the sanitation sector at the conference.
A ministerial declaration of principles will be delivered at the end of the conference. It is hoped that the Durban Principles would be adopted by the general assembly of the African Union to be held in Cairo in July 2008.
Other lead sponsors of the conference include the South African government, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
The African Water Facility (AWF) is an initiative led by the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) to mobilize resources to finance water resources development activities in Africa. The African Development Bank (AfDB) hosts the Facility on the request of AMCOW. Mr. Bedoumra is the director of the African Water Facility and the director of the AfDB water and sanitation department.