Africa Calls for Action at 5th World Water Forum
Istanbul, March 18, 2009–The Africa Regional Paper, delivered at the 5th World Water Forum by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Vice President, Mandla S.V. Gantsho, aims to articulate what it will take to address the pressing water and sanitation issues throughout Africa and calls for an increased commitment by all sectors to take immediate action. Mr. Gantsho’s paper is therefore a call for action.
Mr. Gantsho presented the newly published report at the Forum’s Africa Day following a keynote address by Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chair of the African Union Commission. Both speakers, as well as other esteemed panelists, emphasized the dire need to turn good intentions into tangible actions, and for all sectors to actively support water and sanitation initiatives in Africa in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Erastus Mswencha, Deputy Chair, African Union Commission gives keynote at 5th World Water Forum.
“The time for action is Now – tomorrow will be too late,” said Mwencha while urging the donor community, as well as the governments of African nations, to increase their financial commitments for much-needed water and sanitation initiatives in Africa. Financial commitments for water and sanitation projects in Africa increased from $1.8 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion in 2007, according to a report by the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA). However, there is still a pressing need to step up the efforts if African nations are to achieve the Goals. The well attended session was chaired by Bruno Richard Jean Itoua, President of African Ministers Commission on Water (AMCOW), and moderated by AMCOW’s Executive Secretary, Bai Mass Taal. South African drummers and dancers brought the audience to their feet during Africa Day at WWF.
Water and the MDGs in Africa
In Africa, more than 300 million people do not have access to clean water and more than 500 million do not have access to basic sanitation, causing millions of deaths – mostly of young children – from water-related diseases each year. Hospital beds in Africa and throughout the developing world are full of children sick with water-borne illnesses. In Southern Sudan, one in seven children will die before their fifth birthday from waterborne disease. “We have just seven years to reach the MDGs. Recent reports conclude that since 2000, the world has not made the key progress necessary to meet the MDGs by 2015,” said Mwencha.
Africa lags behind the rest of the world in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a list of targets set by the United Nations in the year 2000 aimed at reducing poverty and the suffering it causes in developing nations by the year 2015. Throughout the 54 countries in Africa, an overwhelming lack of access to clean water and sanitation significantly undermines the chances of achieving any of the eight MDGs since they are all, in some way, tied to water.
Africa Water Vision
Mr. Gantsho expressed appreciation for the support given by donor countries – including the United States, represented at this session by Aaron Salzberg, Special Coordinator for Water Resources for the US Department of State – as well as international organizations such as the Global Water Partnership, UNESCO, UNEP, UNICEF, the World Bank and the European Commission. A child enjoys taking a clean drink of water from a borehole pump installed by UNICEF at a school in Southern Sudan. Mr. Gantsho conveyed a sense of hope as he shared the Africa Water Vision that is stated in the Africa Regional Paper:
“An Africa where there is an equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for poverty alleviation, socio-economic development, regional cooperation, and the environment.”
Gantsho declared Africa Day as the perfect time to renew the resolve to build new partnerships, increase commitments, build capacity, strengthen transparency and accountability, address climate change and environmental degradation, develop resources and work together to assure access to clean water and sanitation to all people in Africa – and thereby achieve the MDGs. Gantsho’s closing statement echoed Mwencha’s in its sense of urgency, “The time to deliver is NOW.”
Distinguished Panel Prioritizes Water & Sanitation
The aforementioned speakers were joined on the panel Loic Fachon, president of WWC, HRH Willem Alexander, the Prince of Orange and Chairman of UNSGAB, Sfara Giogio, Chairman of the G8 Expert Group for Water and Sanitation, Oktay Tabasaran, Secretary General of the 5th World Water Forum, and Veysel Eroglu, Minister of Environment and Forestry of Turkey.
Willem Alexander, the Prince of Orange and Chairman of UNSGAB, encourages the donor community to increase commitments for water initiatives. The Africa Regional Report for the 5th World Water Forum, “Bridging Divides in Africa’s Water Security: An Agenda to Implement Existing Political Commitments” was prepared with support from the African Development Bank’s Multi-Donor Water Partnership Programme (MDWPP) and published by the 5th World Water Forum. The African Ministerial Conference on Water (www.AMCOW.org) designated the AfDB to oversee the preparation of the report. Andrianarison Rakotobe, Director of Water and Sanitation Department/African Water Facility, provided overall guidance.
Written by Amy Hart