Africa will need to adapt its sanitation system to more frequent flooding

A child fills his jerry cans with water in the Kisenyi slum in Kampala, Uganda, in 2019. According to the UN, only 30% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has access to a safe source of drinking water. Photothek via Getty Images - Ute Grabowsky

Text by: RFI Follow

2 min

Humanity has "broken the cycle of water," its "vital substance." The words spoken in New York by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the second day of the UN Water Conference resonate particularly in Africa. It is the continent that suffers the most, and increasingly, from problems of access to water.


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Since 2010, there have been forty times as many thirst riots in Africa. The situation is better in Côte d'Ivoire and Mali than in Cameroon or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But on average, 40% of Africa's population does not have safe access to safe drinking water.

As the population grows, climate change multiplies and aggravates drought episodes, as in East Africa at the moment. In some parts of Kenya, the price of water has increased fivefold. Elsewhere in Central Africa and the Sahel, floods have polluted clean water sources in recent months. In both cases, the lack of drinking water, which causes 80% of diseases, causes a resurgence of cholera in fifteen African countries. 70% of Africans are deprived of sanitation systems, i.e. toilets and sewage treatment.

Need for adaptation and investment

The water and sanitation sector will therefore have to adapt as a whole, explains Christophe Le Jallé, Director General of the Water Solidarity Programme, from New York.

A few years ago, we had over thirty hours several hundred millimeters [of rain, editor's note] in Ouagadougou. What system can support that? It is very complex. If we talk about sanitation, they are often non-collective forms of sanitation, they are pits. When there is a flood, these pits overflow with the health problems that it poses [...] The solution is that at least the first levels of the walls of the latrine are hard, so cement [...]

Interview with Christophe Le Jallé, Director General of the Solidarités Eau Programme

Insecurity does not facilitate investment. Progress is too slow for the sixth of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, access to safe drinking water, to be achieved by 2030. Yet one dollar put into this sector saves up to six dollars in times of fetching water, agricultural and industrial production, and educational and health benefits.

► READ ALSO: A special UN conference to deal with the "freshwater crisis" that is coming

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