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GREEN AFRICA: Water and Sanitation in Africa

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African Views

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Water, they say is life. Indeed water forms three-quarters of the surface of the earth. Ironically, water happens to be one of the rarest elements in many developing countries. Sub-Sahara Africa, in particular suffers from a dearth of potable water. Its cities and towns are literally dry, while its people are thirsting from water in spite of the fact that Africa has some of the biggest rivers and largest lakes in the world.

Like hunger, deprivation in access to water is a silent crisis experienced by the poor and tolerated by those with the resources, the technology and the political power to end it (UNDP, 2006). This crisis holds back human progress with a large segment of humanity living in poverty, vulnerability and insecurity. According to the UNDP, lack of water claims more lives through diseases than any war claims through guns.

Beyond the household need of water and sanitation (WATSAN) to sustain health and maintain dignity, water also sustains the ecological systems and provides an input into the production systems of any nation. Access to water for life is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Some 1.1 billion people in the developing countries have inadequate access to safe improved water (UNDP, 2006). The rural areas that depend on water from unprotected dug wells, rivers, lakes or streams for drinking are at risk of infection by waterborne diseases if sanitation is poor. Too few enjoy the safety and convenience of having water that has been treated piped into their homes or compound. UNICEF (2006), states that water that are most likely referred to as being safe and improved are those from standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater.

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