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AMCOW embraces groundwater in Africa through a new UK-funded Networking Project PDF Imprimer Envoyer

Women and children at a water point in Uganda.  Credit: AMCOW/James Kiyimba

Women and children at a water point in Uganda.  Credit: AMCOW/James Kiyimba

African Ministers’ Council on Water embraces groundwater as a key to health and socio-economic development in Africa through a new UK-funded Networking Project

‘Groundwater is critical in combating coronavirus in Africa. Most people, especially in rural areas, depend on it for everything, including the crucial handwashing and cleaning required’, says Paul Orengoh, Program Director of AMCOW, the African Ministers’ Council on Water, the apex body on water in Africa under the African Union. AMCOW since its inception in 2002 has emphasized the need for proper handwashing, even before the present pandemic. Taking this conclusion to the next level and in post COVID-19 recovery times, we need to be even more cognizant of the role of this resource and the need to ensure that it remains available and accessible for all in adequate amounts and quality to ensure water supply and sanitation for all.  Why making these considerations? Groundwater is omnipresent, below our feet, to be tapped where needed. It is also resistant towards drought and can provide resilience like no other water resources during extended droughts? So, why this concern?

Groundwater can be undermined to the point where is does not provide its nature-based service of water security and resilience. Critical risks come from contamination, which arises when various practices are not controlled with a groundwater-lens in mind. Examples include:

· The issue of poor livestock management, leading to entry of bacteria and unwanted nutrients into the subsurface and ultimately into the water supply, as often seen close to boreholes and watering points where livestock concentrate.

· Similar impacts arise from unprotected pit latrines and uncontrolled dumping of waste as well as poor wastewater management.

· Intense pumping, as seen for intensive agriculture, mining and larger cities due to proliferation of boreholes, can entail a drop in the groundwater level, and result in difficult access for poorer communities relying on shallow wells.

· Salinity can also build up in coastal areas, where pumping wells pull the boundary between fresh and seawater inland.

The resource may also fail indirectly, if the infrastructure to access it, like wells and boreholes, are not kept up with good technology and maintenance.

Hence, while groundwater is the resource to go to during climate change and pandemics and it holds great promise for sub-Saharan Africa in its future development, there is a need to address a chain of factors to ensure continuous safe and uninterrupted flow of groundwater and its benefits for health and economic development in Africa, an overarching one of which is to have the necessary knowledge, capacity and finances to ensure this chain.

This is why AMCOW, in collaboration with partners like the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the British Geological Survey (BGS), along with a large number of national and regional African and international organizations have committed to work together to enhance the groundwater chain and secure not only a better containment of the coronavirus, but also secure long-term sustainability of the resource and the benefits it provides for people across Africa. Through a grant from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and its Global Challenges Research Fund’s Global Engagement Network, to a Groundwater Resilience in Arica Network (GRAN), led by IWMI, these partners are going together in a thrust to enhance focuses, policy, practice and capacity on groundwater across the continent using the new platform of the APAGroP (AMCOW Pan-Africa Groundwater Program), a new flagship program of AMCOW that focuses on groundwater policy and practice in Africa, through leveraging on science and partnerships, while promoting sustainable management and utilization of groundwater resources for improved livelihoods and socio-economic development on the continent.

For further enquiry, contact:

AMCOW Groundwater Desk Officer Moshood Tijani: Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir.

AMCOW Program Director Paul Orengoh: Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir.

Dr. Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary, African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), spearheading the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP) as rolled out in Kampala, Uganda in February 2020 Credit: AMCOW/ Maïmouna Tall

 
World Health Day 2020 PDF Imprimer Envoyer

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.

 

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