By Asmau Ahmad
A joint special report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) says about 418 million people lack basic level of drinking water service in Africa.
The information is in the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP) report launched on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal at the ongoing ninth World Water Forum on “Water Security for Peace and Development.”
The forum, hosted for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa had Mr Macky Sall, the President of Senegal and Chairperson of the African Union, with support from partners, including UNICEF.
It aims to provide unique platform for the water community and decision-makers to find solutions to increase access to water and sanitation across African by 2030.
A statement issued by UNICEF after the launch of the report stated that between 2000 and 2020, Africa’s population increased from 800 million to 1.3 billion people, adding that about 500 million people gained access to basic drinking water and 290 million to basic sanitation services.
It, however, stated that 779 million people lacked basic sanitation services, including 208 million who still practice open defecation, and 839 million who still lack basic hygiene services.
According to the report, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets on water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa will require dramatic acceleration in the current rates of progress.
It says “achieving the SDG targets in Africa will require a 12-fold increase in current rates of progress on safely managed drinking water, a 20-fold increase for safely managed sanitation and a 42-fold increase for basic hygiene services.”
The report calls for urgent action on a continent where water scarcity and weak sanitation and hygiene services could threaten peace and development.
It indicates significant inequalities within countries, including between urban and rural, between sub-national regions and between the rich and the poor.
The report notes that in urban areas, two out of five people lack safely managed drinking water, while two out of three people lack safely managed sanitation, and half the population lacks basic hygiene services.
In rural areas, four out of five people lack safely managed drinking water, three out of four people lack safely managed sanitation, and seven out of 10 lack basic hygiene services.
Ms Marie-Pierre Poirier, the UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said equitable access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene were the foundation for good health and development, especially for children and communities.
According to her, water is life, water is development and water is peace.
She added that “at a time when water scarcity fuels conflicts and water points are targeted, UNICEF calls for urgent actions.
“We need water, sanitation and hygiene in schools, especially for girls who may miss school because there are no toilets or because they have to fetch water. Women and children need safe access to water.
“As climate change puts additional pressure on resources, we need climate risk-sensitive and resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services for children and their communities. And we need it now.”