BURKINA FASO: Flush with new funds for wat/san

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Donors announced in March that they will invest US $1.2 billion into Burkina Faso’s water sector, to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving the number of people in the world who lack access to safe drinking water by 2015.

“So far, the water and sanitation sector [in Burkina Faso] has been neglected,” Salif Diallo the minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries told IRIN, “but now we have realised it is time to act.”

Up to 5.7 million Burkinabes have no access to clean water and 12.6 million lack adequate sanitation facilities. In some parts of the country only 2 percent of the population has access to clean toilets.

The worst areas for water and sanitation are in Burkina Faso’s Sahelian Cascades, Centre Ouest and Eastern regions.

Ambitious infrastructures

The new funds, which mostly come from the African Development Bank, World Bank and bilateral donors, will be used to boost access to sanitation for more than half of the country’s 14 million people and increase access to clean water for 4.2 million, or 30 percent of the population.

The government said it will use the funds to install 617,000 new toilets around the country, build 520 new pipe networks in rural areas, fit water taps in over 100,000 homes and install thousands of water-pumps.

“Creating better infrastructure will help reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases and will free up women from spending time collecting water so they can do other things like generate income,” the minister said.

“We need to make sure that clean water flows from taps even in Burkina’s smallest villages,” Diallo added.

Tide turning

According to a 2006 UN Development Programme report, sanitation has been consistently neglected by donors and recipient governments in their poverty-reduction plans, even though it has a direct impact on public health, employment and economic growth.

But this new investment in Burkina Faso may be a sign that the tide is turning, Yerefolo Malle of the non-governmental organization WaterAid told IRIN.

“Finally the international community is realising that any development initiatives introduced in Burkina Faso must include investments in water, otherwise the MDGs will be doomed to failure.”

Having already passed the halfway mark to meet the 2015 MDG deadline, large-scale investments may be too late in coming, Malle said though better late than never. “Even if there are only seven years remaining it’s still progress,” he said.

“After all, many other countries have no programmes at all.”