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Dar es Salaam, (Guardian), 11 Aug 04

UN-HABITAT Executive Director Prof. Anna Tibaijuka speaks at the launch of the Values-based Water Education Programme in Dar es Salaam yesterday. On the right is the Swedish Ambassador to Tanzania, Torvallolal Akesson.

UN-HABITAT has challenged African countries, cities and communities to translate the goals to have access to safe water and basic sanitation into concrete actions in order to better the lives of the people.

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the Value Based Water Education Programme for the Dar es Salaam City yesterday, the UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Prof. Anna Tibaijuka, said having the targets without concrete actions would not in themselves improve people's lives.

She said presently the challenge of urban poverty was more daunting in Africa than anywhere else and that the number of the urban poor living in urban areas is expected to rise from 30 per cent of the population now to 50 per cent by 2035.

Prof. Tibaijuka said sub-Saharan Africa has 72 per cent of its urban dwellers living in slums areas characterized by their lack of basic services, sub-standard housing, overcrowding, hazardous locations, insecurity of tenure and social exclusion.

"Many girls also drop out of school due to lack of proper sanitation facilities, further worsening the already desperate conditions of their families," she said.

"I feel, a value-based approach to water and sanitation education could make a difference. By opening up hearts and minds of the people, values-based education can be an important agent for behavioral and attitudinal changes in society," she said.

Prof. Tibaijuka said it was from this background that UN-HABITAT established a Water and Sanitation Trust Fund to provide fast-track mechanism to cities and municipalities and enable them to reach out to the poorest of the poor.

Focused on Africa, this fund will provide a much-needed mechanism to foster pro-poor investment in cities and municipalities and will be the principal funding source for further implementation of the Water for African Cities Programme, she said.

In Dar es Salaam, the Water for African Cities programme would focus on introducing value-based water education in primary and secondary schools, improving water use and efficiency through demand management and mitigating the environmental impact of urbanization on water resources in Dar es Salaam.

It would also deal with environmental impact assessment of Ruvu River if the river is regulated by a series of dams, and public awareness raised on water and sanitation related issues.

Launching the value-added water education programme, the Minister for Education and Culture, Joseph Mungai, said promoting water education in schools and communities in urban centers was critical in minimizing current water wastage in cities, including Dar es Salaam.

In a speech read by the Director of Policy and Planning in the Ministry, Amos Mwakalinga, Mungai said improvements in water management could not be accomplished by technical or regulatory measures alone, but through advocacy, awareness creation and education initiatives as well.

He commended UN-HABITAT for the project, which among other things would include investments in water and sanitation in schools because most of them lack the essential services. "Such investments will particularly benefit girls who are often forced to drop out of school due to lack of adequate sanitation," Mungai said.

The Deputy Minister for Education and Culture, Bujiku Sakila, said it was crucial to educate school children about water and sanitation to enable them to conserve the sources, use water well and pass the knowledge to future generations.

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