NAIROBI, Feb. 2 — African countries should prioritize investments in sanitation and wastewater management as part of their post-pandemic recovery agenda, a senior UN Environment Programme (UNEP) official said on Tuesday.
Leticia Carvalho, head of UNEP’s Marine and Freshwater Branch said that revamping Africa’s sanitation infrastructure will boost the continent’s quest to achieve inclusive growth amid shocks linked to the pandemic.
“As the world seeks to recover better after COVID-19, prioritizing wastewater and sanitation infrastructure in Africa is critical,” Carvalho said during the launch of the inaugural Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa compiled by UNEP in conjunction with African Development Bank (AfDB).
The atlas, which was developed over a period of four years aims to benchmark Africa’s progress towards attaining Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on safe sanitation and wastewater management.
It calls for policy shift, innovative financing, strategic partnership, and community engagement in order to revitalize the sanitation and hygiene agenda in Africa.
Publication of the atlas, which is part of a four-year project jointly implemented by UNEP, AfDB, and Norwegian not for profit organization, GRID-Arendal, shed light on the current status of sanitation and wastewater management in Africa.
It highlights the interlinkage between human, ecosystem health, circular economy, and their role in the continent’s socio-economic development.
According to the Atlas, more than half of the population in 34 out of 38 sub-Saharan African nations lack access to basic handwashing facilities.
Carvalho said that African countries can achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on universal access to clean water and sanitation by 2030 subject to robust financing and enactment of progressive policies.
Wambui Gichuri, AfDB’s acting vice-president for Agriculture, Human and Social Development said that African countries should explore new sources of sanitation financing in order to promote human health and spur growth.
“Africa cannot have a healthy society without adequate access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. The new Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa can inform strategic investment going forward,” said Gichuri.
Clever Mafuta, head of the Waste Program at GRID-Arendal said the atlas is a repository of vast information on innovations that can transform wastewater management and sanitation systems in Africa.