Address Challenges Behind Africa’s “water stress”: Caritas Africa to World Water Forum

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Caritas Africa is calling on delegates at the ongoing 9th World Water Forum in Senegal to address the issues that are behind the water crisis on the world's second largest continent. 

In a six-day meeting that started Monday, March 21, government representatives, political leaders, and those from different sectors are in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar, to seek to identify, promote and implement responses and actions for water and sanitation in an integrated way. 

In a March 21 statement, Caritas Africa officials say studies show that nations in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by the overuse of the existing water systems.

“When Governments, the private sector and civil society organizations meet in Dakar, they will need to address the systemic issues behind the water stress in sub-Saharan Africa. Water is a right for all,” Caritas Africa officials say. 

They add that the forum, which has been taking place every three years since March 1997 “should create a space for innovative solutions to address water pollution and water loss in sub-Saharan Africa.” 


“We call for transparent and accountable governance that will match commitments with actions through integrated efforts by all actors,” say officials of the network that brings together national Caritas organizations in 46 sub-Saharan Africa countries. 

Caritas Africa officials say the scarcity of water “deprives our brothers and sisters of the freedom from fear and want.”

They say in reference to the August 2016 report by the Council on Current Affairs, “Water scarcity has led to the competition over shared natural resources and predisposes individuals to conflict and forced migration.”

Caritas Africa officials further cite the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa report on the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5), which says that “women and girls are exposed to sexual violence when carrying out domestic tasks such as fetching water away from their homes.”

They say water sanitation challenges on the continent are also complicated by human waste, which ends up in water sources. 

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“Studies have shown that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for one-fourth of the world’s population of those defecating in the open,” they say in reference to a 2018 report.

Caritas Africa officials say the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa is intensified by the frequent flooding and droughts. 

“Flooding contaminates water sources and droughts result in severe food insecurity,” they say, and add that the challenges “predispose millions of Africans to water-borne diseases.” 

For these reasons, officials of the Catholic Church entity say that “there is an urgent need to unlock financing to facilitate access to piped water obtained from clean sources.”

In this regard, they urge governments to unlock financing for the SDG on clean water and sanitation for all (SDG 5) so as to address water scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa. 


They say the initiatives on clean water and sanitation “should be done in collaboration with actors in health, food and nutrition security, climate change and disaster management.”

Caritas Africa officials also urge governments and experts to “build capacities on recycling wastewater by paying specific attention to the direct benefit on climate.” 

“Governments should design clear policy and management interventions that support sustainable groundwater use in arid and semi-arid regions and; contrasting socio-economic and institutional contexts,” they add. 

Caritas Africa officials also say decision makers “should fulfill the commitments of the Grand Bargain on humanitarian localization through partnerships with local and national actors in facilitating access to quality and safe water and sanitation facilities.”

Launched during the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, the Grand Bargain is an agreement between some of the world's largest donors and humanitarian organizations who agreed to a commitment to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their actions.

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Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.