Africa Development Bank remains committed to financially supporting regional member countries – partners in access to clean water.
Amandine Umukesha, Senior Water and Sanitation Expert at the African Development Bank (AfDB) – Rwanda Office said that at different scales, the Bank helps government institutions and the private sector by financing water related projects, and helps to invest in adaptation and resilience in a programmatic manner by supporting them to build their capacities to access climate finance, assisting in the process and sometimes applying on their behalf to increase the level of access.
Umukesha was on March 24, 2021 responding to a question on practical ways of increasing access to clean water to 2.2 billion people in need, an issue raised at WaterAid East Africa virtual expert panel to commemorate World Water Day 2021.
World Water Day brings attention to 2.2 billion people around the world who do not have a clean water source to rely on.
WaterAid East Africa’s theme was WASH at Crossroads: The nexus between climate change, hygiene and health. This theme anchored on the International World Water Day (WWD) 2021 theme “Valuing Water” and integrates WaterAid’s Global Advocacy Campaigns “Hygiene for Health” and “Water and Climate Change”.
In kickstarting the panel discussion, Maurice Kwizera, WaterAid Rwanda Country Director asked:
“How can we ensure that water availability and accessibility in Africa remains at the top of Africa’s development agenda especially during the recovery phrase of the pandemic an linked to hygiene and health we make it available and Africa’s top of agenda especially post Covid-19?”
In response to this demand Umukesha first highlighted that the pandemic has sharpened an already existing need to upgrade Africa’s water and sanitation infrastructure and to effectively manage water resources.
She proposed actions in addressing commonly shared regional challenges which include lack of infrastructure, funding and management strategy.
“The bank is ready to work with Development partners- WaterAid and others to improve, water, sanitation and hygiene delivery and water security. The level of funding will depend on what is needed on the ground and eligibility, but the bank is calling WaterAid to come around, so we can bring solutions to the people,” she said.
She however stated that there is a need to empathize with the reality of people affected by lack of water so that we bring real solutions forward and move away from discussions to actions.
“Leaders need to have a very good understanding of the Water situation, the large gaps in access, the disease burden and loss of lives due to lack of access; the importance of this sector for health and wellbeing, economy, agriculture and food security, ability to fight pandemics; and more. They have to make evidence-based decisions about water and cooperate to strengthen the sector and need to have clear road map to achieve access to clean water,” Umukesha said.
Using an example in Rwanda where the Bank is supporting the government through projects implemented by WASAC to bridge the infrastructure gaps but sometimes retarded by climate related disasters, Umukesha called on regional countries and partners in the sector to ensure designing and implementing projects taking into consideration climate variabilities by implementing specific measures of adaptation and mitigation to achieve targeted results and reduce the cost effects therein.
For this to happen, panelists agreed that it has to focus on gender equity, engaging youth, promote innovation and partnership, increasing finance, and community involvement in monitoring and management of water resources, water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs.
Christopher Tumwine, Community WASH Volunteer, Weyonje Campaign, in Uganda said that since childhood people have been taught how to wash hands, but this dies out in time yet if policy makers had emphasized it, the world would have a chance to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic which requires hygiene as a safety measure.
“Policy makers should redirect youth innovation towards WASH and Climate Change mitigation practices because youth are most energetic, innovative and have time to make enough impact,” Tumwiine said.
Adekemi Ndieli, UN Women Deputy Country Representative Uganda said that women and girls are disproportionately affected by water and sanitation issues as well as climate change issues.
Access to water is a human rights issues, all development actors should put measures in place to ensure fulfilment of this right. She noted that about 80% of households without access to clean water, depend on women and girls to collect water. When talking about water, we must go beyond youth to include gender lenses.
Olutayo Bankole-Balawole, WaterAid Regional Director (East Africa Region) said that right at the centre of any intervention is the young people and women driving the catalytic change we want to see. She added that we cannot stop innovating, we have to consistently challenge ourselves as a team and come together to partner, integrate and scale up innovations and build on lessons learnt around WASH and climate change, hygiene and health.