Friday, 29 July 2011

Turning a corner?

So, I've been back from AfricaSan for a week, and we're still waiting for the final ministerial statement to be released. At the closing ceremony, there was much positivity, with a real appetite I feel to turn the corner on sanitation. Attendees were especially inspired after seeing the changes achieved in Rwanda on sanitation (it is one of only four countries on the continent on track to meet MDG targets on sanitation).

But my my, what a corner they're going to need to steer around - and quickly. We learnt that 2.1 million children under the age of five had died unnecessarily from diarrhoeal diseases since the last AfricaSan in 2008, and that poor water and sanitation is the BIGGEST KILLER OF CHILDREN ON THE CONTINENT. (I hate capitalizing text, but I really want you to note that point!)

So it was good that the draft ministerial statement from the conference reaffirmed commitment to the eThekwini declaration from 2008, and a commitment to working with others, rather than a new set of targets to chase. We'll publish it here as soon as we get a copy. UPDATE 3 Aug: draft statement here.

Striking things about the conference for me included the shift from talking about aid to talking about innovation, tackling injustice within countries (Zambia is now a lower-middle income country, yet only 49% of the population has access to improved sanitation) and the confidence in which civil society members and End Water Poverty partners engaged with decision makers. They were lobbying their ministers in the hallways, thrusting the CSO Statement into the hands of delegates and easily formed a way forward in holding their governments to account over the coming short years before the MDG deadline.

Of course, now the work to hold governments to account on their statement continues with earnest. I was glad that our new Crisis Talks campaign activity was received so well by civil society actors - I heard exciting plans from DRC, Togo, Liberia, Uganda, Mali and Nigeria! - and I encourage you to get involved too. The activity hopes to be a tool for you to utilize to hold governments to account on their commitments, and put those at the sharp end - those living with even basic access to water and sanitation - at the centre of the debate.

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