The first Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) Coordination Committee took place in in Abuja, Nigeria on 5 December 2013. The meeting aimed to facilitate coordination at national and regional levels and to create an effective platform for coordinating RWSSI advocacy activities supplementing the African Minister’s Council on Water’s (AMCOW) political leadership role. It provides the framework for exchanging regional experiences with rural water and sanitation programs In Africa.
Presenting the Nigerian government’s efforts in the rural water and sanitation sector, Rufus Onyeanusi, Deputy Director in the Federal Water Ministry, pointed out that “between 2011 and 2012, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Water Resources rehabilitated 1000 numbers dysfunctional hand pump boreholes across Nigeria”. For his part, Bernard Mutinda Mulwa, Kenyan Director Water Supply, reported that within the Kenyan decentralization policy the rural Water Supply and Sanitation sector has received increased attention and funding.
The representatives of the World Bank, France and Switzerland saw a lot of potential in RWSSI as its overall objective is about reducing poverty of the rural populations through improving access to water and sanitation. They agreed that Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative Coordination Committee (RCC) offers a unique opportunity to engage with key actors, including representatives from the water sector, but also from ministries of finance, civil society organizations and development partners and media, from African countries.,
The meeting issued three recommendations:
- to highlight best practices in rural water and sanitation in close collaboration with key knowledge partners
- to strengthen the advocacy for rural water and sanitation investments in each country and at regional level
- to improve the monitoring and evaluation systems at national level for rural water and sanitation services, with a special view on the UN strategic development goals from 2015 onwards
Chiji Ojukwu, representing the African Development Bank and Bai Mass Tall, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) Executive Secretary, representing AMCOW, co-chaired the meeting. They were welcomed by Bello Tunau, on behalf Sarah Reng Ochekpe, Nigerian Minister of Water. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation services remains a challenge for the rural population in most of Africa’s 54 countries. Only 19 countries on the continent are expected to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for water and only 7 for sanitation.
As a response to this crisis the RWSSI was launched in 2003 by AfDB as a focused regional response to meet Africa’s urgent water and sanitation needs in rural areas. It objective is to reduce poverty by accelerating access to improved rural water and sanitation facilities from a baseline of 47% and 44% respectively in 2000, to 80% in 2015. To date the Rural Water and Sanitation initiative has provided access to water for about 66 million people and to improved sanitation for about 49 million people in a total of 29 countries across Africa.
The next RCC will take place on the occasion of the Africa Water Week in Dakar in May 2014.