With 300 million Africans lacking sustainable access to safe water, a United Nations-sponsored conference on water agreed on a plan today to halve that number by 2015, while maintaining adequate water supplies to agro-industry and managing weather crises.
Noting that they had adopted the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approved at a UN summit in 2000, 45 ministers of Water and the Environment said in their final document that they would also "incorporate the safe drinking water and sanitation targets as priorities in national development plans and budgets until the goals of safe drinking water and sanitation for all are achieved" in 2025.
The Pan-African Implementation and Partnership Conference on Water (PANAFCON), attended by about 1,000 participants, was hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was organized by the African Ministers Council on Water, several UN agencies making up UN-Water/Africa, the African Development Bank, the ECA and key development partners.
To kick off their programs, the ministers said they would establish National Task Forces on Water and Sanitation next year to prepare long-term policies, negotiate for assistance with a project portfolio and use their commitments to develop an African position for the 12th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-12) next April.
They would try to increase agricultural production, for which adequate water is key, by using innovative technologies for integrated agricultural water use, "including, pro-poor, gender-sensitive, small-scale irrigation" and proven water saving and storage techniques.
Meanwhile, "too many preventable diseases and deaths and economic losses are caused by floods, droughts, pollution and other water-related hazards," the ministers said.
"Droughts, floods and storms are becoming more common and severe in Africa. The human and environmental costs of weather, climate and water-related disasters have increased dramatically over the past 40 years."
To meet these challenges, they pledged to increase funding to African hydrological and meteorological networks.