U.S. Water News Online
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- More than 300 million Africans
suffer from a shortage of clean water, resulting in 6,000 deaths a
year and growing violence over access to water, experts told an
The scarcity of clean water has increased the danger or social and
political conflict in Africa's urban areas, which continue to grow at
an unprecedented rate, senior United Nations officials warned.
African Cabinet ministers representing more than 40 countries
attended a five-day summit that opened in Ethiopia's capital along
with 1,000 delegates to discuss the water crisis on the world's
The Addis Ababa summit is the first of its kind to draw political
leaders and experts from across the continent to establish an action
plan to deal with the myriad of problems surrounding Africa's water
While experts said there was plenty of water available in Africa,
much of it is wasted or poorly managed, resulting in shortages across
Africa. African ministers appealed for $16 billion a year from major
financial institutions, like the World Bank, to help address
Egypt's water minister, Dr. Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, accused rich nations
of ``turning their backs on the poor'' by failing to provide
financial support for water projects. He said without enormous
financial backing from donors and political commitment from African
leaders, impoverished nations will never ``escape the vicious cycle
Abu-Zeid also called upon African countries to ensure peace by
working together to avoid disputes sparked by water shortages.
Kinglsey Amoako, head of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa,
estimated that $20 billion a year is needed to help get water to 300
million Africans. But just $4 billion is spent per year on water
supply and sanitation, he said.
As a result millions live in appalling conditions and needlessly
die, Amoako said. He challenged African government's to ``put their
money where their mouth is'' and commit 5 percent of their national
budgets to funding water projects.
Some African countries spend as little as 1 percent of their
budgets on water supply, relying on foreign aid to make up the
Amoako told delegates that desertification of the continent as
well as years of poor management and widespread environmental
degradation must be reversed.
``We owe it to our children and grandchildren to address all these
concerns with haste,'' Amoako said. ``If we fail to do so, history
will not judge us kindly.''
Under plans being drawn up, African governments are looking to
work together to manage rivers to avoid the threat of so-called
``water wars.'' More than two-thirds of Africa's 60 river basins are
shared by more than one country, creating the potential for clashes
over who and how they should be used.
Anna Tibaijuka, head of the U.N. agency on housing, said failing
to utilize water effectively would undermine important economic and
political strides already made.
``This economic recovery could be in peril if Africa fails to
manage its water resources efficiently and equitably,'' Tibaijuka
said. She also said impoverished Africans living in slums on the
continent are being forced to pay five times as much per liter or
clean water as people living in rich nations.
Tibaijuka also warned that within the next 20 years, 500 million
people will be living in slum conditions in the continent's
burgeoning cities, most without clean water.
``Water scarcity is fast becoming a potential source of social and
political conflict,'' she noted. ``Poor service provision is
extremely detrimental to the health and economy of the African
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