By Alain Tossounon
Seven years after the commitments made in eThekwini, The African world is meeting in Senegal for the 4th Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene. The meeting in Dakar could be the opportunity for yet another new start. However, the review of the commitments made in Kigali, Rwanda, shows that, although some countries have made significant improvements, others are still lagging behind. Greater effort is now needed to ensure universal access to sanitation in all countries on the continent.
In 2008, 45 African countries took up the challenge of prioritizing sanitation to achieve the MDGs. Since then, 42 countries have actually pursued the process of monitoring progress towards fulfilling the commitments made at eThekwini, and over 30 have produced action plans.
Seven years on, the picture is still mixed. The sub-Saharan region, for example, will not achieve the MDG on sanitation. That said, the 2014 report on the Global Analysis and Assessement of Sanitation and Drinking-Water in Africa indicates that progress has been made in terms of fulfilling commitments in all countries.
Countries listed in the group that has made significant progress include Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, among others.
Five areas of commitment were selected in eThekwini, enabling countries to create a positive environment and lay the foundations for accelerating access to sanitation services.
In terms of defining a clear policy, the results are average. In many cases, however, adopting a coherent policy has given fresh momentum to the fight in improving access to sanitation services in the countries. Similarly, implementing monitoring and evaluation systems and tools in the sanitation sector (the second area of commitment) has helped increase the availability of data to support informed decision-making, strategies and allocation of resources to sanitation in several countries.
— AfricaSan4 (@AfricaSan4) May 26, 2015
The review is positive for all countries in Africa for the third area of commitment, namely an annual review of performance in the sanitation sub-sector. The report notes that efforts have also been made by several countries regarding the existence of a primary, transparent institution responsible for managing the national sanitation portfolio (commitment no. 4).
In the fifth area of commitment – coordination involving all stakeholders – the score is once again average. Although efforts have been made in several countries, the report indicates that “progress is slow”. In most countries in Africa, such slowness has been observed in the allocation of financial resources and capacity building in implementing hygiene and sanitation programmes.
But that’s not all. Progress has also been slow in terms of monitoring commitments with regard to programmes for vulnerable groups and taking into account gender-related issues and young people.
In the light of a somewhat mixed but hopeful analysis, the AfricaSan 4 conference in Dakar is expected to make stronger commitments to “Make sanitation for all a reality in Africa” and end the practice of defecating in the open throughout the continent.