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Friday, December 8, 2023

WaterAid: 210 million more Africans lack access to sanitation than in 1990

African Governments are failing to keep their funding promises on sanitation, a new WaterAid report has revealed. The report warns that unless investment is increased, the challenges of urbanisation, climate change and most critically population growth risk turning the clock back on sanitation access even further.

Kroo Bay slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2012, during the worst cholera outbreak in nearly 15 years. Credit: Tommy Trenchard

From 1990 to 2010, the population of sub-Saharan Africa grew by 340 million, however only 130 million people secured access to sanitation over the same period. In total nearly 600 million sub-Saharan Africans – 70 percent of the population – are without access to a safe toilet.

The report, titled: “Keeping promises: Why African leaders need now to deliver on their past water and sanitation commitments,” uses official Government figures from five African Governments – Ghana, Niger, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Uganda – to show that funding on sanitation is falling short of government commitments across the continent.

In 2008 African Governments signed the eThekwini declaration, which committed them to spend at least 0.5% of their GDP on sanitation and hygiene, and to put in place separate budget lines for water and sanitation spending to improve accountability and track progress. Five years on, only one country, Equatorial Guinea, has been confirmed to have met the 0.5 percent funding commitment.

The report also highlights United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates, that the shortfall in water and sanitation services cost sub-Saharan African countries up to 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) each year ($55.6 billion in 2010), more than is provided in development aid to the entire continent ($47.9 billion in 2010).

Nelson Gomonda, WaterAid Pan-Africa Programme Manager said: “Africans waste over 40 billion hours every year looking for somewhere to go to the toilet, and you can add to this the costs of illness and medical bills of those contracting diseases due to the unhygienic conditions. The total costs to African economies could be as much as $55.6 billion per year. Now is the time for African governments to meet their financial commitments on sanitation, and end sanitation and water poverty, and its daily toll on human life, health and livelihoods.”

The WaterAid report also calls on African governments to not only reach their 2008 eThekwini spending commitments of 0.5 percent of GDP, but to go further and meet the 1 percent of GDP sanitation spending recommended by a 2011 World Bank report.

According to a 2012 study, around 400,000 children under the age of five die every year in sub-Saharan Africa due to diarrhoea primarily caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

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