Press Release WHO/70
13 October 1998
REGIONAL MEETING IN HARARE FOR THE AFRICA 2000 INITIATIVE ON WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION
A Regional Meeting for the AFRICA 2000 Initiative for water supply and sanitation took place in Harare, Zimbabwe, last week, with the participation of 95 senior specialists representing 46 African governments, as well as external support agencies and non-governmental organizations. The meeting discussed progress achieved at the country level in implementing the recommendations of the 1996 Brazzaville Declaration, which emphasized community-level response to planning and resources, interministerial cooperation, external support based on government commitment and realistic plans, and strengthening of national capacity to avoid dependency.
Recommendations on crucial issues addressing the water supply and sanitation sector development and a plan of action were the main products of the Harare meeting. The participants emphasized the importance of access to water supply and sanitation as a major factor to improve the health and wellbeing of the African population. In this regard, they expressed concern at the lack of sustainability of water supply and sanitation services in the African Region. Many countries reported that over 40 percent of the water supply and sanitation facilities in rural areas are non-operational at any one time and that in urban areas, the water losses in the distribution systems frequently amounts to 50 percent of the produced water or more.
In order to improve the situation, the meeting recommended that African countries should intensify efforts towards decentralization of the water supply and sanitation sector, promotion of community management of water supply and sanitation services through participatory approaches and cost sharing initiatives.
The participants also recommended that policy- and decision-makers should place water supply and sanitation as a high priority issue within the national development planning framework in each African nation. They requested WHO to continue hosting the secretariat for AFRICA 2000 and to assist Member States in mobilizing international resources for the implementation of the recommendations and plan of action adopted at this meeting. In his closing remarks, Dr Ebrahim Samba, WHO Regional Director for Africa, stressed that water supply and sanitation will be one of the principal components of the newly created Division on Environmental Health in the Regional Office of WHO for Africa.
The aim of the AFRICA 2000 Initiative, adopted in 1993, was to create a common vision for water supply and sanitation, based in part on making optimal use of locally available skills and materials to address the urgent water supply and sanitation problems and needs of all African nations. It recommended that African countries should take the lead in their own development and promote empowerment at all levels; form partnerships and collaboration (both local and external) to optimize the mobilization of all possible resources for the water supply and sanitation sector; and promote development based on local skills and resources.
The Initiative was triggered by the fact that by the end of the United Nations International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, in 1990, most African countries had failed to achieve its objectives. The population served with safe water supply was 288 millions, which represented 45% of the African population. Only 229 millions - hardly 36% of the population - had access to adequate sanitation facilities. The projections for the year 2000 based on mid-term assessments indicate that the gap between served and unserved is widening. If major efforts are not undertaken immediately, it is likely that the population without access to safe water supply will increase from 345 millions in 1990 to 447 millions in 2000, and that less than one third of the African population will have access to adequate sanitation facilities by the turn of the century.
The health consequences are enormous. At any given time, an estimated half of the African population suffers from one or more of the six main diseases associated with poor water and sanitation (diarrhoea, ascaris, dracunculiasis, hookworm, schistosomiasis and trachoma). About 3 million African men, women and children die unnecessarily each year from water and sanitation-related diseases, underscoring the urgent need to devise new responses and solutions. The current social and health indicators in Africa, such as life expectancy at birth (46 years); infant mortality rate (125 per 1000 live births); and under-5 mortality rate (200 per 1000 live births), would be significantly improved through universal access to safe clean water and adequate sanitation facilities in the Region.
For further information, journalists can contact Philippe Stroot, Coordinator Media Relations, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 25 35, Fax (41 22) 791 48 58. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int/