SA commended for tackling sanitation challenges

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) has commended the South African government for establishing a department that focuses on sanitation issues.

AMCOW Sanitation Project Manager Kitchinme Bawa said South Africa is amongst the nine countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region that has already provided a progress report on what it has done to date to progressively deal with sanitation challenges it faces.

“I am particularly impressed that South Africa has gone a step further with its 2016 Sanitation Policy and I know the Zimbabwean government is working on their sanitation strategy, and I hope that other member states will fast track their initiatives,” Bawa said.

Bawa warned SADC member states that if they don’t address sanitation challenges, “it will be very catastrophic for Africa, cutting across education, health and entire productivity, and livelihood of our people”.

Bawa was speaking at a meeting of representatives from various organisations from nine SADC countries in Kempton Park, Gauteng, to give progress reports on their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitments.

Known as the Ngor Commitments Monitoring Sub-regional Meeting for Southern Africa, the event held on Tuesday was a platform for countries to review undertakings made during the 4th AfricaSan Conference held in Senegal in 2015.

During the 2015 conference, a set of commitments were concluded, where each country was expected to work on a strategy to address its challenges.

The countries made the commitments to:

  • Focus on the poorest, most marginalised and unserved, aimed at progressively eliminating inequalities in access and use, and implement national and local strategies with an emphasis on equity;
  • Establish and track sanitation and hygiene budget lines that consistently increase annually;
  • Mobilise support and resources at the highest political level for sanitation and hygiene to disproportionately prioritise sanitation and hygiene in national development plans;
  • Develop and fund strategies to bridge the sanitation and hygiene human resource capacity gap at all levels;
  • Ensure inclusive, safety managed sanitation services and functional handwashing facilities in public institutions and spaces;
  • Eliminate untreated waste; and
  • Enable and engage private sector in developing innovative sanitation and hygiene products.

Director for Africa Multilaterals at the Department of Water and Sanitation, Tshepang Malakwane, said the meeting was an opportunity to benchmark what other countries are doing.

Addressing sanitation backlog

Malakwane said South Africa has placed focus on the reduction of the sanitation backlog by ensuring universal access to sanitation, and “this has resulted in the country advancing in addressing the sanitation backlog”.

However, Malakwane said challenges still exist.

“These challenges prompted the review of the existing sanitation policies with a view to address all the gaps that have been identified over the past 22 years of implementation and unlock the challenges to ensure a seamless delivery of sustainable sanitation services.”

With the development of South Africa’s Sanitation Policy, Malakwane said new national and international development imperatives have been taken into consideration, which includes the country’s National Development Plan (NDP) target for all South Africans to have affordable and reliable access to hygienic sanitation before 2030.

“This [also] includes the 2015 international [SDGs], which aim to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, particularly women and girls,” Malakwane said.

The meeting was a curtain raiser for the upcoming 5th AfricanSan Conference meeting of the Ministers of Water and Sanitation on the African continent, which will be held in Côte d'Ivoire in February 2019. 

The member states will for the next two days deliberate on the progress made by each country, compare each commitment, and AMCOW will compile a draft report with recommendations. –