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New Report Says Africa Not on Track to Meet Clean Water and Sanitation MDGs

A recent report says many countries in Africa are not on track to meet adequate sanitation and clean water standards pledged for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The report: “Off track, off target,” comes from WaterAid, a British group that provides clean water and proper sanitation in more than 25 countries in Africa. The report’s title refers to the pledge to cut in half the number of people without water and sanitation by 2015.

WaterAid’s senior policy analyst for development finance, John Garrett, says 900 million people worldwide are still without clean water, and more than two-and-a-half billion are without adequate sanitation. In terms of the Millennium Development Goals, he says the water target is off track in the regions of Africa, the Pacific, and among least developed countries:

“The sanitation Millennium Development Goal target,” says Garrett, “is so far off track globally that the expectation is that by 2015, which is the deadline for that target, it’s going to be missed by a billion people.”

Massive Child Mortality

This can have dire consequences for children in Africa, says Garrett. Diarrhea is now the biggest killer of children on the continent and is responsible for more than two million deaths worldwide.

The policy analyst says the report is a call for action to developing countries on behalf of those who don’t have access to clean water and sanitation. He says allocating funding for it should be a priority.

Garrett says the report was released last month in conjunction with World Toilet Day, where countries around the world focus on the need for all people to have access to adequate toilets. He says there

are over two-and-a-half billion people worldwide who don’t have access to toilets that in advanced countries like the US, UK, and European countries, people take for granted.

The WaterAid analyst says with just over three years left before the MDG goals are to be met, there’s an opportunity for the big decision makers to turn the crisis around and recognize they can make a real difference. He says they need to take the right actions, such as increasing resources and making sure those resources are going to the communities that are most in need:

“With this urgent action,” he says, “it’s possible to turn this [problem] around and really, really start bringing an end to a crisis which has been around for too long now.”

Rwanda, beacon of hope

Garrett says in Africa more can be done to galvanize political will and points to some of the progress underway:

“In Africa, Rwanda is on track for the water and sanitation targets,” he says. “And that’s come because there’s been really strong leadership, right from the highest level of government, but also right down to grassroots level. And when that leadership’s in place, then it’s possible to really make progress, and we’re optimistic that with the right backing, 2012 can really be a turning point.”

WaterAid says ending the global water, sanitation and hygiene crisis must be counted as one of the biggest international development challenges of the 21st Century.