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For 20 million Africans first-time access to clean water is proving crucial amid COVID-19

July 29, 2020

From Mozambique in the south to Morocco in the north, 20 million people in rural and urban areas of Africa have gained access to clean drinking water for the first time, thanks to African Development Bank projects.

report by the Bank’s Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) unit, which studied projects carried out since 2005, provides key lessons for improving the Bank’s water sector interventions and accelerating the longer-term transformation of Africa’s agriculture and health sector.

IDEV conducted four evaluations related to the water sector: three project cluster evaluations (water supply and sanitation in both rural and urban contexts, and agricultural water management) and one water sector evaluation.

These evaluations summarize the evidence, findings and lessons learned between 2005 and 2016, covering more than 400 operations across the continent with a total project cost of UA 6 billion ($8.2 billion).  

Access to safe water and sanitation is particularly important in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, since the spread of the virus can be mitigated by good hygiene practices. Agricultural water management can also help African farmers to optimize production and reduce the pandemic’s negative impact on food security and nutrition.

Beneficiaries were key to the success of the projects, the report found. The extent and quality of collaboration with local stakeholders matters. In Ghana, for instance, there was active participation by over 600,000 community members in the various project activities thanks to raising awareness and understanding the demand-driven approach. 

The evaluation also identified some barriers to the success of a water sector intervention. For example, outcomes can be undermined by poor service delivery, insufficient human capacity, limited financing and performance of the sanitation and hygiene component or lack of appropriate assessment of critical water sector risks.

Overall, having a long-term view is paramount for determining the success of water interventions. These lessons can provide some quick responses to the ongoing COVID-19 and food security crisis, and accelerate longer-term transformation of Africa’s agriculture and health sector.

Ensuring reliable access to clean water for drinking and handwashing can reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. But today, about 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed water supply, and most of these are in Africa’s poorest regions.

In addition, over 750 million Africans lack access to improved sanitation. These water and sanitation challenges are likely to be further compounded by Africa’s looming climate change crisis.

To address these challenges, the Bank has invested UA 4.5 billion ($6.2 billion) over the past ten years towards promoting universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water and adequate and equitable sanitation — one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6).

According to IDEV’s evaluation report, the Bank’s projects in agricultural water management played a role in reducing the drudgery of fetching water for domestic and agricultural use, and in increasing productivity and diversity of crops.

*AFDB

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