31 January 2013

Liberia: African Ministers Draft WASH Proposal to HLP - Liberia's Woods Says Its Time to Act

After holding two days of thematic meeting and intense discussions in Monrovia, African Ministers overseeing Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) have made proposals for submission to the High Level Panel on the Post 2015-MDG which officially kicks off here today.

"There can be no development without water and better sanitation, ...and this is a major challenge for the African Continent...that we are proposing to the HLP discussion," Mr. Bai Mass Taal, Executive Secretary General of the African Ministers Commission on Water told journalists in Monrovia Wednesday at the end of the two-day consultation.

The aim of the water consultation is to facilitate discussions among a broad range of stakeholders to review progress on the MGDs, build consensus around key future challenges in water and the need to address water in the post-2015 development agenda.

The consultation in Liberia will use the same framework as the global on-line consultation and be divided into three thematic sub-consultations to allow for in-depth discussions and positions around Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Water Resources Management and Wastewater Management and Quality.

"The HLP meeting is going to discuss development after 2015, and we of the African Continent are going to have them informed that we cannot have development without water," he said.

Taal said water is life and too many African were thirsty and the world must work at getting rid of this thirst to pave the way for development on the continent.

"The water committee met here and we have developed messages which we have handed to [Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] in which we asked that water be a central part and not a secondary sector in tackling development."

President Sirleaf is one of the co-chairs of the HLP meeting and expressed gratitude to the Ministers and partners for meeting to discuss the critical issues of WASH as it relates to Africa.

Among other things, African water ministers are proposing that everybody in Africa should have access to water and sanitation by 2030; no child in Africa should go to bed thirsty; nobody should feel like going to the toilet and don't have anywhere to go.

Secondly, Taal said the MDG did not address water resources, but they are suggesting that clean water be an issues, with a call on African themselves to make proper used of both clean and waste water as all categories have specific uses.

He said though there was water on the continent, the issue of water quality--water acceptable by all, for consumption, remain a challenges and these are the issues that should be disused. "These are issues and messages that have been developed for the HLP discussion.

Liberia's Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, co-chairing the African Water Commission said significant progress have been made on the development of the WASH Compact in Liberia and that different agencies of the WASH sector are being brought under one umbrella to jointly improve the sector.

Africa, he added is now pushing for universal access to water, considering WASH as basic human rights.

He said the African voice needs to be articulated to the rest of the world. "Now our people remain thirsty, women suffer the excruciating perils of the lack of safe water and sanitation, our children's growth have been impaired by this development; so, now they are yearning for answers and we need to act now and this why were are here and we need action."

"This consultation must be a call to action. This is the time to act; our women in the villages continue to suffer the excruciating perils associated with the lack of safe drinking water," Woods said in his opening statement at the opening of the consultation Tuesday.

The growth, survival and development of the Liberian children continue to be impaired by lack of access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation. So "they want action, not words, these consultations must respond to their yearnings."

In furtherance, Minister Woods said, Liberia is eager to demonstrate to the world that it is committed to reforms, and its agenda for transformation is on course. "We want to show progress, we want to consolidate the gains of democratic transition, respect for the rule of law and good governance".

He said the water and sanitation sectors have suffered from lack of attention at various levels adding that, if current funding and planning trends continue, the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation will not be met in Sub-Saharan Africa for the next 150 years.

Minister Wood said Water being central to development which has been proven, its socio, economic and environmental values is often overlooked. He declared that even though there remains to be major challenges, the inclusion of access to water and basic sanitation as MDG targets within the Millennium Declaration in 2000 helped the world focus its attention, and overcome some of the most aggravating challenges.

Girish Menon, Director of international program and Development chief executive of WaterAid, one of the international partners at the conference, said the forum was a great way for Africans to make their voices heard with respect to the WASH sector.

He said these voices and recommendations, when turned into political commitment could mean well for Africa.

A World Bank survey in 2011 revealed that 18 African countries, Liberia among them, were losing 5.5 billion annually due to lack of water and sanitation. The report also released that between 1% and 2.5% of GDP is also lose. Open defecation alone accounts for almost USD 2 billion annual losses in the 18 African countries.

According to the statistics, each individual without toilet can spend up to 2.5 days a year finding a private place to defecate resulting in economic losses of about USD 500 million in time annually in the 18 African Countries. To eliminate the practice of open defecation in these countries would require about 23 million toilets to built and used.

The burden of poor sanitation falls disproportionately on the poor in all countries the survey covered; the poorest people are more likely to practice open defecation than the wealthiest people and that the poorest people have to pay disproportionately more for the negative effects of poor sanitation, among others.

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