ANEW's baby steps now long strides

Kampala, March 2, 2010: The delegates from at least nine eastern Africa countries that converged at the second Eastern Africa Sanitation conference are yet another testament of how many strides the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) has made on water and sanitation issues in the region.

The three-day event, which is taking place in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, started on March 2, 2010 and is the second follow up meeting for Eastern Africa for the second African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (AfricaSan+5) that took place in Durban, South Africa, in February under the auspices of the Africa Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW).

Delegates taking part in the Sanitation conference

As the meeting opened to a room full of delegates from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen, the Executive Secretary of ANEW, Ms Jamillah Mwanjisi, could not help juxtaposing the situation now and when they first held a similar meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in November 2008.

"We started as a small team" said Ms Mwanjisi.  "When we met in Nairobi, we made commitments to hold regular meetings and that at every stage we learn from each other and review our own issues and share that information. This idea was based on the commitment that civil society organisations can play a role in ensuring that sanitation targets are met, and that we will provide feedback to our governments about sanitation targets."

The initial team may have been small but the infectious enthusiasm of the ANEW pioneers to be an autonomous Africa-wide platform for diverse voices of African civil society organisations on water and sanitation has since infected others across the continent. Ms Mwanjisi said ANEW now coordinates about 400 organisations involved with the sanitation sector in Africa. While the number of civil society organisations has grown, Ms Mwanjisi said conferences like the one taking place in Kampala should not turn into yet another talking shop on sanitation.

Jamillah Mwanjisi - Executive secretary ANEWJamillah Mwanjisi - Executive secretary ANEWOver time, we have been meeting as experts and governments, making very bold statements but when it comes to implementation it is very slow" she said.  "So when we meet in conferences like this, it is an opportunity to review our plans and actions to see how far we have come. We hope that by the end of the conference, we shall map out a way of moving forward in the right direction."

Sure enough, the EAS conference will provide a platform for the governments in the region, civil society and donors to review progress made on national action plans towards achieving the eThekwini Action Plan of 2008, ministerial commitments, and commitments made by the Heads of States at the African Union Summit that took place at  Sharm el Sheik in Egypt.
The  eThekwini Action Plan, which was agreed upon during the Sanitation and Hygiene conference in Durban, articulates the critical actions to be further developed, funded and monitored by 2010, in order to put Africa back on track to meet the sanitation Millennium Development Goals.

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Updated on 3 March 2010

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