Cape Town — Access to proper sanitation and hygiene continues to prove a challenge to African countries. Following the success of previous conferences, the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) and the AfricaSan International Task Force agreed to hold the AfricaSan5 in Cape Town, South Africa, with the purpose of generating political momentum for hygiene and sanitation, as well as provide a Pan-African forum to showcase best practices and support problem solving. About 47 countries on the continent have achieved less then 50% coverage.
Most countries focus more on water and not sanitation, despite inadequate sanitation being responsible for most cases of faecal illness - the most common being diarrhea. Half of the population of Sub-Saharan countries do not use proper facilities, and most countries on the continent do not have national sewage plants or sewage management frameworks, according to AMCOW.
Mayors and local authorities from Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, Uganda and South Africa are attending the conference. AMCOW and AfricaSan are making a case for a paradigm shift, arguing that local authorities should be able to mobilize structural, human and financial resources to address sanitation challenges in urban areas. Their actions should be geared towards interacting with local authorities to improve municipal sanitation policies, planning, strategies and financing.
Open defecation is rife on the continent, for instance in Nigeria, and the conference participants hope to unearth new and efficient ways to curb these practices. Environmental sanitation has stagnated since the 1950s though it proves to be key to development as without appropriate intervention ill-health and a life without dignity will ensue. Speakers all agreed that simply having access to sanitation improves health, well-being and economic productivity while inadequate sanitation impacts individuals, households, communities and countries. Despite its importance, resources allocated to sanitation are usually low and inadequate. Very few African countries can boast of a national sanitation framework or provide personal sanitation to their citizens. Thousands of children die yearly of avoidable diseases, girls drop out of school because of inadequate sanitary provisions. According to the World Health Organization, lack of good sanitation is responsible for most tropical diseases and most of people who die from these diseases are in Africa.
Large-scale urbanization, increasing weather patterns due to climate change is further complicating the situation, hence cities are faced with the dilemma of finding sanitation solutions that correspond with local realities. To this end, elected offficials, according to AMCOW executive secretary Canisius Kanangire, should play a pivotal role if this goal is to be achieved. According to Kanangire, change must start from the community before moving to the national level and not the other way round.
Kanangire says Africa's lagging behind in sanitation and hygiene deprives it of all the socio-economic benefits that come with it. The one-week conference will brainstorm to find cost effective ways to provide hygiene and sanitation to all by 2030.
Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Conference Chair Douaye Kone proposed a program that highlights best practices and innovation in policy, sanitation utility services, financial and technological solutions to make FSM an enabler of City-Wide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS).