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AFRICA: Water Summit Ends

MIDRAND, South Africa, Nov 13 2009 (IPS) - As the Second Africa Water Week ends, participants have reiterated that lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation has a direct bearing on public health and the economy in Africa.

Podcasting Africa Water Week

Click on the links below to listen to audio reports from the week-long summit on water issues.

Africa Water Week begins in Midrand, South Africa

Studying effects of climate change on rivers

Women and water resources

Calls for less talk, more action

The cost of water

The South African minister for water and environmental affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, who takes over as chair of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) for the next two years, observed that cooperation on these matters will serve as a principal building block towards breaking the cycle of poverty in Africa.

She also emphasised the need for enhancing regional capacity to carry forward the implementation of water and sanitation programmes.

Clarissa Brocklehurst, of the United Nations Children’s Fund, indicated that that 15 countries were behind schedule on achieving development goals for supplying drinking water; 39 countries were off-track as regards the sanitation target.

“For the sanitation MDG to be achieved in Africa, 45 million people per year would need to gain access to sanitation in the years preceding 2015,” she observed.

Brocklehurst further said that although aid disbursements for water in Africa had increased significantly, the available capacity to utilise this aid needed to catch up, deploring that only a small proportion of aid was directed to basic water and sanitation development.

In a discussion on financing water and sanitation infrastructure, Alan Nicol from the World Water Council noted that making  a case for prioritising water is not easy, as everyone wants a piece of the finance pie.

“Three key contextual issues are affecting investments: population growth, agriculture and climate change,” he said.

Several agreements were signed concurrently with the conference, including a $67 million dollar grant from the Netherlands to support infrastructure in poor communities in South Africa.

Throughout the week, parallel sessions were held on the theme of finance, as well as on closing the sanitation gap and addressing climate change.

A recurring theme was that political will was urgently needed, in conjunction with accurate knowledge of the realities on the ground in order to move effectively and efficiently.

Participants at African Water Week viewed several elements with particular concern: the lack of proper governance and corruption in some African countries and also the negative role sometimes played by big international mining companies and similar organisations.

Several civil society delegates said that viewed against Africa’s urgent socio-economic needs, it is more important than ever to move from talk to decisive action.

 
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