Tuesday, March 16, 2010

World Water Day (WWD) 2010: Africa is Thirsty

The year 2010 World Water Day (WWD) is significant to Africa’s poor population. The event will hold in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22nd March 2010, as Africa is the world’s most thirsty continent. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World’ and its overall goal is envisaged to raise awareness about sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being through addressing the increasing water quality challenges in water management and also raise the profile of water quality by encouraging governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to actively engage in proactively addressing water quality e.g. in pollution prevention, clean up and restoration.

The population of Africa is growing at a geometric rate, but public access to basic needs including water supply is not. With millions of Africans coping with scarcity of clean, portable and affordable water, African policy makers should always remember that, water scarcity and population growth are two correlating issues.

WWD campaign is very important to rural communities, especially those in Africa, as the attention of the world will turn to their plight in the area of clean water supply and sanitation, as well as ring a bell to those in authority of their responsibilities to rural areas.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/47/193 of 22 December 1992 by which 22nd March of each year was declared World Day for Water, which was first observed in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) contained in Chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21.

Availability of clean water is a fundamental issue for socio-economic development of every nation, as Africa’s population is swelling in a geometric rate, there must be an increased effort in developing clean water allocation strategy, because as population and development increases, the quest by the public, especially the poor for clean, portable and affordable water for domestic use, increases.

Millions of Africans have no access to clean and portable water; coping with water scarcity is a challenging responsibility that requires decision makers to bringing water related issues to the top of political agenda. It is generally believed that poor communities suffer the greatest burden from inadequate water supply, but in Africa, poor communities, rural and urban areas are facing the dilemma of coping with scarcity of clean water.

For millions of Africans, the end of one tedious day marks the beginning of another, the first thing that comes to the minds of millions of Africans in the early morning of every day is where to get clean water. From rural to urban areas, women and children have to travel long distances to quench their thirst. As a result, many cannot go to school or go to school late. African children hoped for a life free of disease, but today, millions are battling with water-borne diseases, some are blinded while many are crippled. At childhood, waking–up in the morning, picking a container, rushing to queue or search for water is an activity that millions of African children think it is their culture and tradition, but in later part of their lives they realize is not. African governments have for a longtime, not made the provision of this commodity that everybody uses every day a priority.

UN World Water Development Report revealed that, in most of the largest cities in Africa, less than 10% of their inhabitants have sewer connections; only 10 to 30% of all urban households’ solid wastes are collected, the continent houses 13% of the world’s population that is without access to improved water supplies and sanitation, Africa has large disparities in water availability, and the lowest water supply in the world, despite the fact that, Africa houses four out of the five biggest water reservoirs in the world: Owen Falls located in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, Nasser in Egypt, Kariba in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Volta in Ghana

The United Nations General Assembly in 2003 proclaimed the years 2005 to 2015 as the international decade for action ‘Water for Life’; these commitments include the Millennium Development Goals to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015 and to stop unsustainable exploitation of water resources. At the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002, two other goals were adopted: to aim to develop integrated water resource management and water efficiency plans by 2005 and to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation. There are no signs that Africa is on the path of achieving this, because of uncontrolled growing population, wide spread scarcity of clean and portable water, poor access to sanitation and health, limping capacity-building, inadequate financing and little or poor advocacy, poor resources management and unreliable energy.

With a population of nearly a billion people, with an average human water consumption of four litres a day, Africans need at least four billion litres of clean water a day! Although population growth projections are uncertain, but soaring rate of population growth is typical of most sub-Saharan African countries.

Political leaders who get water by a touch of a tap or squeezing of a bottle’s cap, need to know the world water day celebration has to go beyond conferences and seminars, and populations census have to be repositioned to serve only developmental purposes especially in planning for strategies in allocation of safe water. It is believed that demand for water doubles as population grows. Therefore, Africa’s strategy for provision of safe, portable and affordable water must take into reflection population growth.

For Africa’s political leaders to effectively address the increasing water quality challenges in water management and stop the increasing number of African children being decimated by water-borne diseases, a proactive and pragmatic safe water provision programme most be put in place. There is a clear need for a system that would give the poor access to clean and portable water sources that are reliable, dependable, maintainable and responsive to population growth.

As the world gathers in Africa to celebrate WWD 2010, those attending the conferences and seminars will quench their thirst by the squeeze of a bottle’s lid, while for millions of Africans to quench theirs, they have to travel hundreds of kilometers in search for water.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

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