Election 2012 campaign commitments
Water and sanitation must be affordable and available to all citizens of Sierra
Leone – and the Government of Sierra Leone must lead the way. This means leadership at all levels – from the President, to the Parliament, to the District Chairmen and Councilors. It means increased investment of skilled staff and funding at local levels where the responsibility to deliver services lies. It means targeting the vulnerable communities, such as women/girls and disabled people, as well as communities in their entirety.
The “I’m voting for safe water and sanitation”, led by WASH-Net Sierra Leone[i] and supported by WaterAid[ii] and the Freetown INGO Urban WASH Consortium[iii] are calling on political parties to commit to deliver the following four actions within the first year in office, as part of their election campaigns for 2012:
- Deliver on the Government’s recent global commitment[iv] to spend 1 per cent of its GDP on sanitation by 2015, with a separate budget line in the national and local council budgets, and with the vast majority of this funding going to the local level.
- Set targets for scaling up investment into water by 2015, to meet the MDG commitments on safe drinking water, with the vast majority of this funding going to the local level.
- Leave no citizen behind: Set a timetable to increase access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in line with Sierra Leone’s MDG commitments, and then beyond to reach all citizens. Ensure schools and health clinics have access to clean drinking water, and improved sanitation facilities, with separate facilities for boys and girls, and accessible facilities for disabled people.
- Involve citizens in planning and monitoring: ensure there is a structure in place for civil society to meaningfully participate in planning and monitoring for water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Why are water, sanitation and hygiene election issues?
Water, sanitation and hygiene are the cornerstone of a country’s growth and its citizen’s wellbeing. Access to water and sanitation means:
- A healthier population, which puts less burden on health services.
- An economically active population. UNDP estimates that for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an $8 return in economic productivity[v]. Sierra Leone cannot afford to ignore water and sanitation.
- More children, especially girls, are likely to go to school as they are no longer spending time collecting water.
- Water not only for families and communities, but also for agriculture and industry.
Water and sanitation are also basic human rights as recognised by the United Nations – a right that Sierra Leone has committed to deliver to its citizens through its National Water and Sanitation Policy.
The water and sanitation challenge facing Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is facing big challenges with regards to water and sanitation – and urgent attention is needed if it is to meet its national and international commitments.
Long way to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Sierra Leone’s MDG targets are that by 2015 74 per cent of the population should have access to safe drinking water, and 66 per cent of the population should have access to sanitation. However, currently only 57 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water and 40 per cent has access to improved sanitation, reducing to 13 per cent if shared latrines are not counted[vi].
Ending the public health emergency cycle: In 2012 cholera has been declared in three districts of Sierra Leone and Freetown, which is claiming lives. Diarrhoea is still the third biggest killer of children under 5 years old. All this puts additional strain on the health care system.
Ensuring facilities are accessible to all: With water and sanitation being the basics of life, health and prosperity, it is essential that water and sanitation facilities are available in schools and health centres, with separate facilities for male and females, and appropriate facilities for disabled people.
Ensuring facilities are available all year: It is critical that citizens have sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation all times of the year, at all levels. Currently many water points are either broken, or provide insufficient water during the dry season.
Change is possible
Increased access to water and sanitation is not only possible, it is essential for Sierra Leone to prosper. Encouragingly, progress is being made. There is a National Water and Sanitation Policy to direct how Sierra Leone can improve its water and sanitation management. Over the last 2 years, the implementation of Community Led Total Sanitation has meant 2,333 communities across Sierra Leone have become Open Defecation Free. The Government has also made recent commitments to increase funding for sanitation to 1 per cent by 2015, to have separate budget lines for water, sanitation and hygiene in the national budget, and to establish a Water Resources Commission and a separate Environmental Sanitation Directorate.
It is critical that Sierra Leone builds on this current momentum as it goes forward, so that Sierra Leone can thrive economically and socially. This requires political will and the investment of resources. The “I’m voting for safe water and sanitation” is calling on all political parties to show their commitment to the advancement of water and sanitation and Sierra Leone in the 2012 elections.
[i] A national advocacy network of 87 Sierra Leonean organisations
[ii] Part of Tran-boundary support for Sierra Leone and Liberia
[iii] Consisting of ACF, Concern Worldwide, GOAL, Oxfam and Save the Children
[iv] Made in April 2012 at the Sanitation and Water For All High Level Meeting, Washington.
[v] UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006: page 6