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Tunis, 13 Nov 06

UN-HABITAT and the African Development Bank have agreed to work together to improve access to clean water and sanitation in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique and Swaziland.

The decision was made at a meeting held in Tunis on 2 November 2006 at the African Development Bank headquarters to discuss the collaboration under the Memorandum of Understanding signed in March 2006 between UN-HABITAT and African Development Bank.

Among the challenges facing Africa, provision of safe water supply and adequate sanitation are of the highest priority. Even where there is enough clean water, the quality is often poor, leading to poor health from waterborne diseases.

The Bank will spend over 200 million dollars under the Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative in the five African countries to assist in the rehabilitation, expansion and provision of safe water and sanitation facilities. The funds will also help to build the capacity of central and local governments, utilities and local communities.

Under the collaborative arrangement, the Bank and UN-HABITAT will work together in several areas, including gender mainstreaming to enhance the involvement of women in water and sanitation service provision, advocacy and raising awareness on hygiene and efficient use of water, and monitoring progress towards the millennium development goals.

The agreement also promotes pro-poor water and sanitation governance as well as urban catchment management to protect water resources by offering an integrated approach, linking water management, land-use, the environment and human activities. The two organizations will implement innovative “learning by doing” demonstration projects, share and disseminate information and experiences among the participating countries.

The agreement will pave the way for small urban water utilities to complement the role of local and central government in providing water and sanitation services by developing tools to help assess the viability of small scale providers and establish water rating systems among others. The need to invest in new water and sanitation technologies such as rainwater harvesting, eco-san toilets, small bore sewerage, waste recycling and reuse was also discussed.

The meeting also proposed a partnership for a regional environmental programme that builds on UN-HABITAT’s work in the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Regional Initiative which will see the achievement of water and sanitation related millennium development goals focusing on environmental protection. The proposed partnership would expand this initiative to additional secondary towns.

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