Rights to Water and Sanitation

Although the Johannesburg summit in 2002 set a target of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015, more than 300 million Africans still lack access to safe drinking water and 14 countries on the continent suffer from water scarcity. Out of 55 countries in the world with domestic water use below 50 litres per person per day (the minimum requirement set by the World Health Organization; the minimum requirement set by most African countries is 20 litres per person per day), 35 are in Africa. Almost half of all Africans suffer from one of six main water-related diseases.

To make progress in the water sector as in other sectors, Sub-Saharan Africa needs both institutional development and investment finance. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in water supply and sanitation, the number of people served must more than double, from 350 million in 2000 to 720 million in 2015. Even then, some 200 million would remain un-served. The expected annual cost of meeting the MDG target for water is between US$1.7 and 2.1 billion, and just as much is likely to be needed for sanitation. Most countries are undertaking WSS sector reforms, and some have achieved good progress in expanding access to services and improving operating performance.

Average per capita water availability in the region is about 5,300 cubic meters - moderate by world standards, but much of the region is arid with highly variable rainfall. Due to lack of well managed water-storage infrastructure, water-related services irrigation, water supply, and hydropower are much less prevalent than in other parts of the world. For example, only 3.6 percent of the region’s total cropland is irrigated. Sub Saharan Africa has an extraordinary density of international river basins; successful regional cooperation to develop and manage infrastructure and water flows in these basins promises large benefits.

Weak governance is a key contributory factor to poor resource management and service delivery. While it is growing, the role and space for CSO and citizens engagement in ensuring appropriate service delivery varies from country to country and region to region. CSOs and citizens are usually unable to effectively demand accountability due to lack of information and know-how on engagement procedures and opportunities. So while the continent seeks additional investment for development, investment is also required to strengthen the voice and role of the CSOs and citizens.

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