By Hamza Kyeyune
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) - Uganda is hosting the 20th African Water Association (AfWA) conference in the capital Kampala, the largest water and sanitation sector gathering in Africa.
The four-day conference, which opened Monday, is being held as most African countries are grappling with immense water and sanitation challenges and need to share ideas and resources and collaborate to find solutions.
“Water is essential to life. The AfWA meeting is bringing together key stakeholders to discuss accelerating water protection efforts and sanitation in Africa. Clean and safe water means clean hands, which means healthy bodies, meaning that time that would be lost to sickness is reduced and people can get to the work of lifting themselves out of poverty,” said Samuel Apedel, public relations manager of National Water and Sewerage Corporation, a public utility company wholly owned by the Ugandan government that has taken the lead in organizing the conference.
Every day in rural communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa, millions of people suffer from a lack of access to clean, safe water.
A spatial map developed by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicates that 11 million people live without access to clean water. As a result, a glass of water to drink means miles to walk.
For school going children, it is a burden that keeps them out of classrooms. They often bear the hardship of walking miles each day to find water in streams and ponds which is often full of water-borne diseases that are making them and their families sick. Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys to be the family members responsible for fetching water.
According to the World Health Organization, the situation of access to clean water and sanitation in rural Africa is more dismal than the previous statistics imply.
There are 94 members of AfWA drawn from utilities, affiliate and individual members including France and Spain. This year’s theme is “Breaking new grounds to accelerate access to water and sanitation for all in Africa.”