Africa Gears up for the International Year of Sanitation 2008

Media Advisory

The African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and regional partners have announced plans for a high-level regional conference to specifically focus on the challenge of accelerating sanitation and hygiene programs in the continent.

The AfricaSan Conference scheduled for 18-20 February, 2008 in Durban, South Africa will be among the key activities in the continent to mark the global International Year of Sanitation, AMCOW President Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua announced today. The International Year of Sanitation, launched yesterday at the UN Headquarters in New York, was set by the UN General Assembly to help accelerate progress on sanitation by putting the spotlight on this silent crisis.

The AfricaSan + 5 Conference will follow-up five years after the First AfricaSan Conference of 2002 that helped to formulate a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) specifically for sanitation: to reduce, by half, the number of people without access to basic sanitation and hygiene by 2015.

An estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide are without proper sanitation and thereby lack protection against preventable diseases. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest sanitation coverage, according to a report on the global of sanitation and hygiene prepared annually by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. Only 60 percent of the African population has access to improved sanitation services, and the continent needs to increase coverage to more than 221 million unserved people to meet the 2015 MDG target date. Despite significant efforts by governments, progress on sanitation targets has been slow and uneven.

AMCOW says the AfricaSan Conference will focus the attention of Africa’s sanitation leaders and technical experts on exploring ways of accelerating achievement of national and the MDG targets for sanitation.

“AfricaSan will bring together African government ministers responsible for sanitation, and other relevant ministries; managerial-level sector professionals from the public and private sectors; and sanitation sector practitioners in civil society; multilateral donor/development agencies; research/training institutions and the media,” says Hon. Itoua, who is also the Congo Minister for Water. “The overall objective of AfricaSan is to promote sanitation and hygiene improvement programmes in Africa and to assist key African stakeholders identify actions to accelerate achievement of national and the MDG targets for sanitation.”

Hon. Itoua concludes: “The provision of sanitation is a key development intervention – without it, ill-health dominates a life without dignity. Simply having access to sanitation increases health, well-being and economic productivity. Inadequate sanitation impacts individuals, households, communities and countries. Despite its importance, achieving real gains in sanitation coverage has been slow. Scaling up and increasing the effectiveness of investments in sanitation need to be accelerated to meet the ambitious targets agreed to in Johannesburg in 2002.

The International Year of Sanitation

Proper sanitation: It’s a seemingly mundane thing that most people in the developed world take for granted. But at least 2.6 billion people – some 41 percent of the global population - do not have access to latrines or any sort of basic sanitation facilities. As a result millions suffer from a wide range of preventable illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which claim thousands of lives each day, primarily young children. Improving access to sanitation is a good investment because:

Sanitation is vital for human health
Sanitation generates economic benefits
Sanitation contributes to human dignity and social development
Sanitation sustains the environment
Improving sanitation is achievable!

Recognizing the impact of sanitation on public health, poverty reduction, economic and social development, and the environment, the UN General Assembly put the spotlight on the issue by declaring 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. The goal is to raise awareness and to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015.

AfricaSan Conference Objectives

The broad objective is to promote sanitation and hygiene improvement programs in Africa and to assist key African stakeholders identify actions to accelerate achievement of national and the MDG targets for sanitation.

The specific objectives:

Assess the status of sanitation and hygiene in Africa and the scale of the challenge to meet the MDG on sanitation by 2015 and the goals of the IYS in Africa.

Review actions taken to improve the state of sanitation and hygiene since Africasan 2002, and share experiences, lessons from the participating countries and organisations, in particular success stories and approaches that show promise for achieving sanitation take up and hygiene improvement at scale.

Discuss and develop an action plan, focussing on strategic areas, to improve monitoring of sanitation and hygiene in the region and accelerate sanitation and hygiene programs regionally and in selected countries across the region.

Generate political commitment, embodied in a joint declaration, to develop and implement effective regional and national policies, programs and partnerships based on agreements for collaborative effort at the regional level and specific actions at country levels;

Raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene as an essential element of sustainable development in the region; and strengthen leadership and advocacy for sustained sanitation and behavior changes.

AfricanSan Conference Co-hosts

AfricanSan Conference Co-hosts include:
Regional and International Partners
African Ministerial Conference on Water (AMCOW)
African Development Bank (AfDB)
United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF)
United Nation’s Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water (UNSGAB)
Water and Sanitation Program, Africa (WSP-Africa)
Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
World Health Organization (WHO)

In South Africa

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF)
City of Durban
Ethekwini Metropolitan Council

Conference Venue:

Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, Durban, South Africa

Media contacts:

Toni Sittoni: +254 20 322 6316 (Nairobi, Kenya );
Happy Nkhoma: +27 723 777 192 (Pretoria, South Africa)

For more information visit:


John Smith said…
Thank you for such wonderful and interesting article.

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