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Ministers seek acceleration of water security, access to safely managed sanitation

The Africa Water and Sanitation Week Conference ended on Friday, November 26, 2021, with the issuance of “The Windhoek Multi-Stakeholder Resolutions for Accelerating Water Security and Access to Safely Managed Sanitation and Hygiene in Africa”.

Unicef Water
Children fetch water at a pump near Kerio some 13 km from Lodwar town, in northern Kenya, August 10, 2011. Turkana is one of the hardest hit districts by prolonged drought and recurrent cholera. Photo credit: UNICEF/Antony Njuguna

The Conference was convened virtually by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and the African Union Commission (AUC) and hosted by the Government of Republic of Namibia.

It provided a platform to over 3,000 registered participants for dialogue and knowledge exchange to advance the water and sanitation agenda in Africa.

On water governance, the statement calls for the strengthening of policy, legal, institutional and regulatory environments by ensuring context specificity; intra- and inter-sectoral coherency. It calls for upholding the principles of universal social inclusion and equity.

The statement further enjoins governments to raise the profile of social accountability and transparency. It notes the vitality of recognising women and youth as agents for the planning and implementation of the water, sanitation and hygiene agenda in Africa. The statement notes that it is imperative to develop the requisite human resources capacity especially among the women and youth for sustainable services delivery.

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On finance, the statement calls on governments and the private sector to significantly increase investments in climate-resilient and inclusive water and sanitation services and infrastructure. The continued support of development banks and partners is cited as a critical enabler. It calls on governments to recommit to both the 2003 PANAFCON commitment of allocating at least 5% of budgets for water and sanitation. It further calls for the e-Thekwini commitment to establish public sector budget allocations of a minimum of 0.5% of GDP for sanitation and hygiene programmes.

On water supply, sanitation and hygiene services governments are called to seize the opportunity of heightened awareness of ensuring water availability, and improved sanitation and hygiene services provision. Further, it calls for keeping up the fight against COVID-19, bringing down the over-all disease burden and preventing future pandemics. It is imperative that pandemic preparedness and response capabilities are strengthened, and the profile of sanitation and hygiene is raised.

The statement calls on governments and stakeholders to address the challenges faced in the access of reliable and complete data in the water, sanitation and hygiene. The need to rethink how data on hygiene practices is captured and utilised to inform decision-making and improve sanitation and hygiene programming, and delivery has been emphasised.

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On water for growth and economic development, governments and partners are encouraged to prioritise water management and services provision as essential ingredients for poverty alleviation and inclusive development. Further, it calls for the prioritisation of groundwater resources management as a key element of water resources development, utilisation and management.

Well-functioning monitoring, assessment and management systems are noted as requisite ingredients to ensure sustainable use of the resources. Ministers also resolved to mobilise groundwater networks, actors and institutions towards a common, harmonised, and evidence-based approach to sustainable groundwater use and management.

On water quality and wastewater management, the statement calls for the strengthening of legal, policy and institutional frameworks for the collection and treatment of solid waste and wastewater. This, the statement emphasises, should be to a minimum quality standard before reuse and or safe disposal.

The statement calls for standardised regulations for wastewater treatment, environmental flows and water quality management in Africa. Particular reference should be paid to: i) arresting and reversing plastic pollution of surface water bodies; and ii) preventing of groundwater contamination due to unsafe solid waste and wastewater disposal to the environment.

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On climate change and resilience, the statement calls attention to the recently published UN’s IPCC Assessment Report and the relevant priorities of the Glasgow Climate Pact. These include integrating water and climate action through adaptation and resilience planning at national and regional levels. It also involves promoting and financing global water monitoring systems to provide timely information about current and future water availability. A call is also made for a proactive approach to flood and drought management centered around monitoring, forecasting, and early warning vulnerability, impact assessment and preparedness, mitigation, and response.

Lastly, this Statement also calls for the prioritisation of investment for monitoring, evaluation, knowledge, information management and learning to consolidate evidence-based and timely decision making at all levels. It further encourages African governments to foster research and application of knowledge and innovations to inform sector interventions targeted at improving water management and sanitation services provision.

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