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Uganda chosen to host key African forum

posted 24 Nov 2013, 19:39 by Sekuma Peter

Uganda has been elected to host a high-level forum and council of ministers on water and sanitation in Africa.          

The 5th forum, which is to bring together ministers and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) experts and investors from across Africa, is scheduled for November, 2015 to devise ways of addressing sanitation challenges on the continent.          

Uganda was picked from among 23 member states of the Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA), a Pan-African Intergovernmental agency, on Friday during the 3rd high level forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.          

Organised under the theme “Vibrant and effective south-south cooperation to accelerate access to hygiene, sanitation and water for all in Africa,” this year’s three-day forum attracted hundreds of participants including from Asia and Europe.          

Announcing Uganda as the host for the 5th forum, WSA chief executive officer Idrissa Doucoure, said it was high time African leaders acknowledged that boosting access to safe water and sanitation can help drive development.          

The state minister for primary health care, Sarah Opendi, who submitted Uganda’s bid, said the conference would provide an opportunity to address the wanting sanitation situation in the country. This will be the first time the forum is held outside West Africa.          

“The ministry of health submitted a request last year to join WSA because sanitation is still poor and is not given the requisite attention in the country. The Government has made some progress but we still have a lot to do,” Opendi stated.

Representatives of the 23 member states of the Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) at the 3rd high level forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Although Uganda’s household latrine coverage has improved from 49% in 1998 to about 68% today, many people in areas rural like Karamoja are still using the bush as their ‘toilet’. Latrine coverage in Karamoja stands at 5%, according to Opendi.

Health ministry statistics show that only one in four Ugandans washes hands properly- with soap and water- after using a latrine/toilet, explaining why about 75% of the country’s disease burden is preventable and linked to poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation facilities and practices.

Uganda loses about 400 people daily from water-borne infections like diarrhoea, Ebola, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid.          

Participants at the forum in Abidjan called for increased investment in the water and sanitation sector across the continent so as to spur development.

Over 600 million Africans need improved sanitation while 345 million lack access to clean water.

As a result, between 10-20% girls drop out of school due to sanitation problems, according to Lincoln Opio, the partnership portfolio manager at WSA.

He said over 80% of the disease burden and 2,000 deaths among children in Africa were a result of poor sanitation.

“A dollar invested in water and sanitation yields four percent economic opportunity,” Opio said, asking governments to align water and sanitation projects in the respective development plans to increase funding to the sector.