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World Health Day 2020 PDF Print E-mail

06 /04/2020

Message - by Dr.Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW)

Breaking the pandemic cycle: Improving access to safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene

April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. It provides an opportunity to focus world attention on a health problem.

World Health Day this year will be celebrated under an unprecedented threat to our daily lives: the Covid-19 pandemic. There is currently no cure but key among protection measures and means to slow down or stop the spread of the virus is the hygiene behavior of Handwashing with soap.

Handwashing with soap is an important public health activity and huge barrier to many diseases. Access to clean water is indispensable for proper handwashing. However, for many people across the world and especially in Africa, access to basic handwashing facilities with soap is still lacking. Therefore, those unserved people will see their vulnerability increased and their lives more seriously threatened by the pandemic.

For AMCOW, it is an opportune time to remind our governments that access to adequate and clean water and good sanitation and hygiene services are essential components of providing basic health service and constitute the primary drivers of public health.

This year, the tagline for World Health Day 2020 is: Support nurses and midwives.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed how poorly prepared is the global community to face a disaster of the nature and magnitude of the current coronavirus pandemic. All nations, including the so-called powerful ones, are seriously challenged. Nurses, midwives and all other caregivers are deployed at the frontline, in most cases inadequately equipped for the battle against Covid-19. They put their lives at high risk in order to save others’ lives. Their courage and dedication are commendable.

The task of nurses and midwives is very challenging and somehow frustrating where and when there is poor access to clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene services. At AMCOW, we see the devastating impact that poor access to WASH services has on Africans’ health and ultimately on Africa’s economies and development prospects.

Indeed, according to the Joint Monitoring Programme 2019 report  by UNICEF and WHO, in Sub Saharan Africa 83% of healthcare facilities have no water services, 80% have no sanitation services and 49% have no hygiene services. Providing safe water, adequate toilets and hygiene in homes and health centres will prevent the spread of infectious diseases and protect health staff and patients.

Governments must act now to ensure better coordination between ministries and organisations responsible for health and those leading on water, sanitation and hygiene, to ensure clean water, sanitation and hygiene are properly integrated into national healthcare policies, programmes and strategies.

At AMCOW, we have been working to improve the prioritization of water and sanitation. As part of our mandate, we have the responsibility to effectively and efficiently coordinate actions of key water and sanitation players, facilitate the strengthening of regional cooperation and transboundary water resources management and development as well as build the capacity of relevant institutions and agencies. As part of our work, the Ministers in charge of sanitation under the AfricaSan platform ensured that handwashing is paramount among the commitments they made as part of the Ngor Declarations of 2015 though pronunciation of the commitment no 6 to: “Ensure inclusive, safely-managed sanitation services and functional hand-washing facilities in public institutions and spaces (national and sub-national)”. We are working with member states to advocate for the implementation of this commitment along with others, and track and report progress.

We are also coordinating the development of the Africa Sanitation Policy Guidelines (ASPG) which will provide the necessary guidance to enable African countries to develop WASH policies that can provide the necessary foundation for improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services to all and, as a result, enable health systems to improve Africa’s resilience to pandemics like the COVID-19.

Health for All cannot be achieved without WASH for All. African Governments and donors must significantly and urgently increase financial resources allocated to the WASH sector and ensure that game changing policies and strategies are developed and implemented, that actions targeting the most marginalised and vulnerable people are identified.

As the nurses and midwives continue their work, with bravery, at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, we owe support; and the most critical one is to ensure that they have unfettered and sustained access to clean water, improved sanitation and hygiene services so that they can focus better on saving lives and as a result contribute to the driving socio-economic development for our continent and the world at large.

 
AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program PDF Print E-mail

The Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP) Gains Momentum Towards Realization

Dr Kevin Pietersen is an associate at the Institute of Water Studies at the University of the Western Cape; his participation in the workshops was funded by Resilient Waters. Mr James Sauramba is the SADC-GMI Executive Director. Both write in their personal capacity. The article benefitted from contributions from Dr Hans Beekman and Dr Jude Cobbing.

After the launch of the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 1 and 2 October 2019, follow-up Working Group meetings took place on 22 and 23 February 2020 in Kampala, Uganda. This was followed by groundwater sessions at the African Water Association Congress and Exhibition (AfWA 2020). The meeting was attended by representatives from Resilient Waters and the Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI).

Globally there have been many cases of groundwater depletion, largely driven by irrigated agriculture, resulting in a statement by a global group of scientists, practitioners, and experts to use groundwater in a sustainable manner to arrest the decline. However, in sub-Saharan Africa the current groundwater use of most countries remains under 5% of the national sustainable yield, suggesting that groundwater has the potential to be an appropriate resource to further support irrigated agriculture, ensure urban and rural water security, and to provide drought resilience across the region.

With this in mind, the APAGroP Working Group meetings established several Action Groups to develop a White Paper for the African Ministers of Water; develop in-country support tools; strengthen groundwater capacity and knowledge management and information sharing; carry out resource assessment; and provide support in the fields of drilling, financing and governance. The African Water Association, which is a professional association of establishments, enterprises and utilities operating in the areas of drinking water, sanitation and environment in Africa, provided an opening to showcase the utility of groundwater at AfWA 2020. Sessions with presentations and panel discussions were held on a wide range of topics:

  • Groundwater Governance: AMCOW APAGroP as a catalyst for intra- and cross-country groundwater ‘resource-to-tap’ management
  • Insights in the adaptation of transition management in order to increase sustainable urban groundwater management
  • Off grid: the opportunities and challenges of safe and sustainable water points
  • Manage, recharge, and protect groundwater for resilient urban water supply
  • Drilling dialogues: a conversation about professionalism, groundwater mapping and off-grid cities
  • Unlocking groundwater: from data to knowledge. What’s needed to manage groundwater for society, economy and environment

Based on our participation and our experience in the SADC-region we recommend the following areas where the APAGroP could focus on:

1. At Pan-African level there is a need to develop addendums to existing transboundary water agreements and Memorandums of Understandings (MoUs) to strengthen groundwater management and conjunctive water use. Draft articles, model provisions and bilateral and multilateral agreements have been developed which can guide APAGroP in developing the norms and standards for such addendums. MoUs on specific issues, could include agreements on data sharing, joint monitoring and standards, or other specific and priority mechanisms for shared groundwater governance that should be implemented on a short-term basis and could then be included in a larger package of legal reforms over time towards amending transboundary water agreements.

2. The latent groundwater potential in most parts of Africa provides an opportunity for groundwater expansion. However, the international discourse on water which has shifted towards conservation and remediation may present a barrier denying large-scale groundwater use and the associated social and economic benefits derived from groundwater development in Africa.

3. State-centred groundwater governance systems in isolation are inadequate and multi-level (or polycentric) groundwater governance is needed, where centralized rules are standardized broadly, and subsidiarity is adhered to where decisions are delegated to the lowest possible level of governance as groundwater management requires local decisions-making, e.g. wellfield operating rules. The APAGroP needs to facilitate institutional arrangements that are problem-solving towards the development of coping strategies and technical measures.

4. Cities in Africa face unplanned urban growth outpacing economic, social and institutional interventions, and pose many challenges to water planners in ensuring water security and resilience. The role of groundwater in water security is inferred but still poorly recognized in urban areas as illustrated by mixed messages about groundwater storage, contemporary rates of resource renewability and the wider impacts of uncontrolled aquifer depletion and pollution. The transition to water sensitive cities will require adoption of various groundwater management options such as managed aquifer recharge (MAR) to build resilient cities.

5. The inability of Water Utilities to provide water services has resulted in communities relying on groundwater through self-supply. Self-supply is perhaps conveniently overlooked in policy and legislation.

6. The assessment of transboundary aquifer systems will require transition from a lithostratigraphic delineation to the use of groundwater-flow systems for the evaluation of the degree of transboundariness.

Water security is fundamental to the sustainable development of each society. This is particularly true for Africa, which faces challenges of widespread poverty, food insecurity, and inadequate and unreliable domestic water supply in both rural and informal urban areas. Increasing aridity and rapid urbanisation further threatens water security, especially in semi-arid and arid regions. Groundwater provides an excellent opportunity to mitigate against dwindling surface water supplies. We believe that above recommendations will significantly contribute to drought security as part of all water provisions, and resilience to environmental shocks and stresses caused by climate variability and change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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