Majority Of African Nations To Miss MDG Target On Water, Sanitation, UNEP Says

The majority of African nations will fail to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets related to water and sanitation, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said Friday, Agence France-Presse reports.

According to UNEP, Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia are the eight African countries “expected to attain the MDG target of reducing by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation by 2015,” the news service writes. “UNEP also said that only 26 out of 53 African countries were on track to reach the MDG target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to drinking water by 2015.”

As part of last week’s Africa Water Week summit, the agency’s remarks coincided with the release of its Africa Water Atlas, which presents “hundreds of ‘before and after’ shots, detailed new maps and satellite images from 53 countries to show the problems facing Africa’s water supplies,” according to a UNEP press release. “Research carried out for the Atlas shows that the amount of water available per person in Africa is declining,” the release states (11/25).

“The Africa Water Atlas, compiled by UNEP at the request of the African Ministers’ Council on Water, also maps out new solutions and success stories on water resources management from across the continent,” U.N. News Centre writes. “It contains the first detailed mapping of how rainwater conservation is improving food security in drought-prone regions. Images also reveal how irrigation projects in Kenya, Senegal and Sudan are helping to improve food security,” the news service writes.

The 326-page atlas was the result of a collaboration between the African Union, the European Union, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Geological Survey, U.N. News Centre adds. The “atlas gathers information about the role of water in Africa’s economies and development, health, food security, transboundary cooperation, capacity building and environmental change in one comprehensive and accessible volume,” according to the news service (11/26).

The atlas also documents “how the challenges of water scarcity in Africa are compounded by high population growth, socioeconomic and climate change impacts and, in some cases, policy choices,” the UNEP press release adds. “The publication makes a major contribution to the state of knowledge about water in Africa by bringing together information about water issues in each country and summarizing the state of their progress towards the MDG water targets, synthesizing water issues by looking at them from the perspective of challenges and opportunities and providing distinctive profiles of transboundary water basins and country” (11/25).

Meanwhile, the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” reports the African Development Bank (AfDB) last week “said that an estimated annual $45bn-$60bn …is needed to improve Africa’s water infrastructure – of which $11bn … is flagged for the continent’s drinking-water supply and sanitation needs.”

“‘Financing from official development assistance [ODA] and national budgets is clearly not sufficient to close the financing gap in the water and sanitation sector,’ said the bank, which is urging governments and water sector professionals to make their countries and their programmes more attractive to other investors,” the blog writes.

The post details the bank’s recommendations for how African nations can cope with decreased foreign aid while still working to improve water access, writing, “To fill the shortfall, the AfDB believes money can be tapped from greater user contributions, savings from utility reforms, private sector investments and contributions from private foundations. … They also point to micro-finance as a possible mechanism for funding water services at a local level, along with climate adaptation funds.” The blog adds, “Commercial finance, says the bank, can help to fill the gap between demand and the resources available from government budgets and aid, and is ‘perhaps the largest untapped source of finance for water.'”

Though AfDB  recognizes the declaration by the U.N. General Assembly that access to clean water and sanitation is a human right, “the bank argues that it is a ‘misconception that rights entitle people to free water; instead, water and sanitation should be clean, accessible and affordable for all,'” the blog continues.

The post details debates over how to price water and sanitation services and includes quotes by former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Richard Maholo of South African Crisis Water Committee and Vandana Shiva, an environmental advocate from India (11/26).

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