Africa Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Africa Water, Sanitation Jan -Feb 2014 Vol.10 No1 - Page 29

Water Management Africa Must Prioritize Water in its Development Agenda Africa must now go beyond household water access indices to embrace water as a key development issue, say experts at the Jan. 15-17 U.N. International Water Conference in Zaragoza. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS By Miriam Gathigah Edited by Phil Harris A lthough African countries have been lauded for their efforts towards ensuring that people have access to safe drinking water in keeping with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), they have nonetheless come under scrutiny for failure to prioritize water in their development agendas. Thomas Chiramba, Head of Freshwater Ecosystems Unit at the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) in Kenya, told IPS that in spite of progress on the third component of MDG7 – halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 – water scarcity still poses a significant threat to sustainable development in Africa. Attending the United Nations’ International Water Conference being held in this Spanish city from Jan. 1517, he said that “there is too much focus on household water access indices and not enough on linkages between water and sustainable development.” While there are now more people in Africa with improved sources of water and sanitation, experts say that this is not enough. The continent is still facing water scarcity, with negative implications for growth and health. While there are now more people in Africa with improved sources of water and sanitation, experts say that this is not enough. The continent is still facing water scarcity, with negative implications for growth and health. In view of the rapid and unpredictable changes in environmental systems, Chiramba said that unless Africa broadens its national and international water goals the region will find it difficult to remain economically resilient. “Water is key to the agricultural and energy sectors, both critical to accelerating growth and development in Africa,” he added. The theme of the Zaragoza conference is ‘Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action’ and is at the heart of adaptation to climate, also serving as a key link among climate systems, human society and environment. One of the main aims of the conference is to develop implementing tools, with regard to financing, technology, capacity development and governance frameworks, for initiating the post-2015 agenda on water and sanitation. More than 300 participants representing U.N. agencies and programmes, experts, the business community, and governmental and non-governmental organizations have converged with the main aim of addressing water as a sustainable development goal. Africa Water, Sanitation & Hygiene • January - February 2015 29