African officials at UN-sponsored talks call for new effort to cut hygiene-related deaths

African officials at UN-sponsored talks call for new effort to cut hygiene-related deaths

African ministers meeting at a United Nations-sponsored conference on freshwater issues called today for a new international effort to cut hygiene-related deaths, marking a new strategy in water policy for the continent.

Meeting in Bonn at the International Conference on Freshwater, ministers from 22 African countries adopted a 17-point Declaration resolving to “put water, sanitation and hygiene issues from the margins to the centre of the sustainable development agenda in Africa,” according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The recommendation comes against the background of recent statistics showing that 6,000 people a day, or over 2 million a year, are dying as a result of sub-standard sanitation.

The ministers expressed hope that the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), taking place in Johannesburg next September, would deliver the much-needed solutions to Africa's water and sanitation crisis.

“We call upon the cooperating partners of Africa and the international community to support a regional and global alliance for tackling water and sanitation problems," the Declaration says, adding that there is a need for "drastic measures to improve water, sanitation and hygiene conditions for all our peoples."

Among the eight key actions needed to deliver sufficient safe and clean water for people and wildlife are a strengthening of policies and laws for water management, an intergovernmental policy dialogue for water security and financing for the development of the water sector.