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Africa Water Week Day 2: A healthy WASH conference

Simavi’s Public Affairs Officer WASH Roel Blesgraaf blogs about the events during the 6th Africa Water Week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 18-22 July 2016. In this blog, he takes particular notice of hand washing facilities at all breaks, aside from water and sanitation commitments being forged.

The Africa Water Week is almost halfway and I must say the Tanzanian government did a great job in hosting the conference, in many facets. Today I learned all 25 members of the Technical Advisory Committee of the African Ministers Council of Water (AMCOW-TAC) are here in Dar Es Salaam.  It was a long time ago that they were complete. The presence of countries such as Libya at the Water Week is a true diplomatic success. The AMCOW-TAC will prepare the ministerial meeting on Friday. And also the catering is extensive and represents the hospitality of the Tanzanian people: a great difference with the Dutch slices of bread with cheese.

During the technical sessions it was interesting to see how all actors in the sector are trying to find their new roles in how to implement the SDG’s. Lydia Zigomo, Head of East African Region at WaterAid, said during a session about governance challenges the role of CSO’s will change. It will change from a focus on service delivery to a focus on holding governments to account and strengthening the voice of local communities. This resonated very well with the ambitions of the Watershed programme, which seeks to improve governance of water and sanitation by strengthening local CSO’s on lobby and advocacy.

As CSO focal point for the Sanitation and Water for All partnership (SWA) in the Netherlands I wanted to attend the side event of SWA about Contributing to Africa’s water, sanitation and hygiene agenda in the new global architecture. The side event provided an update about the current status of discussions in and around the partnership for the already involved partners, and an explanation how the partnership works for the newcomers. Representatives from all constituencies explained how the partnership provided added value to them. Amanda Robertson from USAID explained it’s a table to share each other’s language for a common goal: sanitation and water for all. Samson Shivaji, CEO of KEWASNET and Steering Committee member on behalf of the African CSO’s, said the recognition of the platform has clearly grown. But he added that having country-based partnerships with a role of CSO’s is key to ensure promotion of inclusion of marginalised people. Currently all SWA commitments of 2014 are being self-monitored, whereby strong and inclusive country platforms will be key to ensure valid outcomes. SWA will be an interesting platform for Watershed to keep track on.

One of the things I’ve noticed during the conference as Mzungu (white person) are the handwashing facilities available at all breaks. Since I advocate for WASH away from home, I’m a great fan of these. All participants wait patiently in a line to wash their hands first before enjoying their tea and lunch breaks.

Handwashing facility at AWW6- WASH

A handwashing facility during the Africa Water Week 6 in Dar es Salaam.

Everyone washes their hands with soap and warm water. How great! It may seem like a small thing but during a conference about water where many hands are shaken, it’s an absolute necessity.

One of the highlights of Tuesday was the visit of the permanent secretary of the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Engr. Mbogo Futakamba, to the Watershed stand. Four (wo-)men strong, we explained the programme and thanked him for the well-organised conference. Personally I was pleased he recognised Simavi as important partner active in the health sector in Tanzania. I was lucky my colleagues from our Tanzanian office Thea Bongertman and Sosthenes Gabriel just came by, so I could introduce them to Mr. Futakamba and explain the programme where we upgrade 100 health facilities with WASH services. One very short moment, but my presence in Dar was already worthwhile.

Three days down, three more days to go. Kitch Bawa, sanitation focal point at AMCOW and one of the organisers of the meeting, said to me he is happy on Friday if the ministers will agree upon a strong roadmap as outcome document. I have confidence that with the ongoing discussions, the roadmap will be strong and will leave no one behind.

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