By Raphael Mweninguwe in Daker, Senegal.
The 4th African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene opened Monday this week in the Senegalese capital Daker with a call to politicians and stakeholders to ensure improved sanitation financing and improved access to sanitation and hygiene.
The meeting which has drown participants from about 32 African member states has been organised by the Senegalese Government and the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) is aimed at enabling countries to share experiences towards achieving their eThekwini declaration.
In 2008 African countries including Malawi signed the eThekwini Declaration at a meeting held in South Africa which among other things calls for sanitation finanacing, development and implementation of sanitation, information, minitoring systems and tools and build and strengthen capacity for sanitation and hygiene implementation.
Speakers at the conference agree that progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.
“Sanitation is improving slowly. In 2012 little over half (about 53%) of the urban population in Africa used an improved sanitation facility; only 30% of the population in rural areas did,” said Sanjay Wijesekera of UNICEF.
He said access to sanitation favours the rich while the poor continue lagging behind. He said the increase in population is not marching the resources available to improve saniation.
On open defecation an estimated 233 million people in Africa still use the bush to defecate a situation which experts say has increased the number of deaths due to diarrhea.
Amcow Executive Secretary Bai-Mass Taal said with a call to achieve universal access to improves sanitation in the post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, AfricaSan4 “intends to come up with a successor declaration for the eThekwini Commitment to be christined the ‘Teranga Commuents on Achieving Sustainable Access to Improved Sanitation in Africa’.
“The Teranga Commitments shall define the actions we intend to take to improve sanitation in the continent through post 2015 development era,” he said.
Senegalese Minister of Hydrauluc and Sanitation who is also AMCOW president Amadou Faye said, “There is no doubt that poor hygiene and lack of access to safe sanitation and large-scale open defecation continue to underlie major health problems, undermines economuc economic growth, pollutes the environment, prevents girls from school attendance and traps Africans in poverty,” he said.
The Malawi delegation to the AfricaSan4 meet is headed by Emma Mbalame, Deputy Director for Water Supply in the Ministry of Agrucukture, Irrigation and Water Development.
Mbalame said it was an opportunity for Malawi to share and learn some experience from the conference which ends on Wednesday.
AfricaSan is primarily a pan-African political initiative aimed at building mommentum to address the sanitation and hygiene challenges.