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Water security in Africa remains very poor

According to the United Nations’ first-ever assessment of water security in Africa, only 29 African nations have made some progress over the past three to five years, while 25 have made none. This is despite the global Sustainable Developments Goals and commitments that were made in 2015.

This assessment – published on the eve of World Water Day (March 22) – employed ten indicators to quantify water security in Africa’s 54 countries: access to drinking water, access to sanitation, hygiene and health, water availability, efficiency of water use, water infrastructure, water quality, water governance, water disaster risks, and physiography.

On a scale of 100, all country scores besides those of Egypt are below 70. Only 13 African countries have reached a modest level of security in recent years, with Egypt, Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius, and Tunisia being the continent’s top five most water-secure countries.

At the opposite end of the scale, Somalia, Chad, and Niger are the least water-secure African nations. Thus, according to the report, there has been little progress in national water security of most African states over the past three to five years.

In order to compare Africa’s situation globally, the authors of the report call for global standards for water security measurement data and assessment.

“Some critical components of water security simply cannot be assessed without introducing surrogates or proxies. With such poor data availability, progress toward water security is difficult to assess accurately,” the scientists warned.

However, according to lead author Grace Oluwasanya – a water scientist at the United Nations University – “data limitations do not change the main outcome of this assessment, which is strong and clear. Overall levels of water security in Africa are low. Not a single country let alone a subregion have at present achieved a state that can be seen as ‘model’ or even ‘effective’ stage of water security.”

“This assessment for African countries aimed to create a quantitative starting point and a platform for subsequent discussions with national, regional, and international agents; it is neither a prescription nor a guide,” added co-author Duminda Perera, a water resource professional at the United Nations University.

“As this quantitative tool develops, it will help generate targeted policy recommendations and inform decision-making and public-private investments toward achieving water security in Africa,” he concluded.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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