AFRICA’s Right for clean Water: Taking the Lead

Published on IPS, by Zenzele Ndebele and Nasseem Ackbarally, November 18, 2009.

MIDRAND, South Africa, Nov 11 (IPS) – Water is a resource that binds people together, for better or worse.

The care taken to prevent pesticides or sewage from washing into water supplies in one place, or decisions made in another about managing its flow to generate electricity or irrigate crops: it’s clear that water issues spill over boundaries.

The ongoing Second Africa Water Week taking place in Midrand, South Africa, gathers water ministers, U.N agencies, development partners, civil society and the private sector to discuss water and sanitation. The meeting takes place at the same time as the seventh meeting of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).

“There is an under-utilisation and uneven sharing of water resources in Africa, and that remains a growing challenge in the achievement of food and energy securities,” African heads of state declared at the Sharm el Shaik summit of the African Union in July 2008.  

That concern is part of the force behind the African Ministers’ Council on Water. AMCOW was established in 2002 in recognition of the central role water resources play in sustainable development in Africa …

… To Williams’s call for greater citizen involvement, Nkoulou Mfoulou Parfait, a rural engineer from Cameroon, urged better education on water issues.

“At the level of policy, we have to to understand that water is the driver of public health and that in a country like Cameroon more than 60 percent of illnesses are linked to water,” he told IPS.

“It’s necessary to improve public awareness because we don’t stress this enough. We need to talk about it in the media, in schools, so that people know that (unsafe) water is a threat.

“Water is life, but dirty water is death.”

Burkinabé MP Yacouba Sawadogo had a different perspective.

“Water should be an instrument for development, but it’s not. Because we have not mastered the key points that would allow us to harness water for social and economic development. When it rains in West Africa, only 15-17 percent of the water is captured.

“We have to have it before it can be useful. We don’t have it. We don’t have enough water for it to be an instrument of development. We must master water before it can serve development needs.”

AMCOW is seen as a key mechanism for achieving all these goals and more.

As Africa Water Week and the AMCOW summit get underway in South Africa, the water ministers’ president, Bruno J.R. Itoua, sees the body as an important part of the solution to Africa’s problems.

“We think now we have (a body) which is becoming a leader in achieving all the issues about water sanitation in Africa, on behalf of the African Union, governments and civil society. We have established the basis for a very clear leadership on issues of water in Africa.” END/2009. (full text).

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