Saturday, August 13, 2011

Searching for a Good Drink of Water

(VOA) A recent study from the Catholic University of Angola shows that well over 50% Angola's population lacks access to safe water and sanitation. The study was carried out by experts from the Center for Studies and Scientific Research in Angola in partnership with the Open Society Foundation. Professor Nelson Pestana Bonavena states that the study reveals that some 38-42 % of the population has an ‘access to water’ while 25-40% have access to appropriate sanitation.   These figures are supported by the Angolan government’s own figures from the 2010 IBEP Population and Well-Being Survey.

The lack of clean water for those living in the country’s poorest neighborhoods, coupled with the still-common practice of open-air defecation, means there is a high risk of diseases like cholera and typhoid, especially during the rainy season.   Experts say that Angola’s lack of clean water and poor sanitation is the main reason it is among the highest under-five mortality rate in the world and is a major driver for the recent resurgence of polio that is now spreading northward into the neighboring country of Congo.

With 1 600km of Atlantic coastline and its interior criss-crossed by the Zambezi, Congo and Okavango rivers, Angola is one of Africa's most water-endowed countries. It enjoys the most rainfall in Southern Africa and has twice as much available water per capita as Zambia or Mozambique and an estimated 10 times more than South Africa, according to the United Nations.  

Yet because of the pace of development of the potable water resources, many Angolans still lack access to ‘local and safe’ drinking water infrastructures.  When local water sources malfunction and the nearest river is too far, the only alternative for city dwellers is to buy water from private trucks which fill up at rivers and charge rather exorbitant fees. 

With global media exposure to these water access and sanitation problems, many private corporations are supplying funds to alleviate the problem.  Diageo, a global beverage company, has struck a three-year accord with WaterAid, an international charity organization, to fund a project that will provide water and sanitation to over 38,000 people in Angola. 

With new boreholes being drilled, new taps installed or existing ones repaired, and localized water treatment facilities being set up in rural areas next to rivers, a development plan is moving ahead.   Programs relying on extensive social mobilization about the importance of hand washing and water treatment are being initiated to decrease the number of cholera cases.  With these programs being initiated, the Angolan government confirms it will meet the 2015 United Nations millennium development goal for environmental sustainability and halve the number of people who don’t currently have sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. (VOA, Business Day, ReliefWeb)

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