Freshwater availability is one of the most critical factors in development in Africa. Inadequate water supplies are both a cause and an effect of poverty. Invariably those without adequate and affordable water supplies are the poorest in society. The effects of inadequate water supply – disease, time and energy expended in daily collection, high unit costs, etc. – exacerbate the poverty trap. Provision of basic daily water needs is therefore a human right.

Problems with freshwater availability in Africa are further complicated by highly variable levels of rainfall. As a result, large numbers of people are dependent on groundwater as their primary source of freshwater. Providing daily water needs is a burden on households with inadequate services in a number of ways, in addition to the direct health threats. Often water has to be carried over long distances to the house which takes time and effort, a burden borne mainly by women and children.

African countries lack the capacity to build pipelines, develop distribution, drainage and management systems, dig latrines, bore, pump, and connect users to the water supply, and treat, recycle, and re-use waste safely. In urban and urban fringe areas water is often only available from vendors at a price which is usually several times more expensive than the water provided through formal services and of poor quality.

Africa is facing a largely forgotten, endemic water and sanitation crisis that debilitates and kills in large numbers, limiting economic growth, educational access, and life opportunities. International trends and research have indicated that hygiene awareness and education play a major role in breaking down the transmission of diseases affecting many rural communities in the developing world.

CA activities in relation to fresh water, health and sanitation aim to:

  • Create awareness of the implications of water quality and of poor sanitation practices on community health and living conditions;
  • Contribute to creating awareness among local communities that water has a value and it is this value which is the basis for rational use of water resources;
  • Organize capacity building (e.g. training) for community-based organizations (CBOs) and NGOs to enable them participate effectively in managing local water resources and services;
  • Promote NGO networking, advocacy and awareness building and exchange of lessons learnt and best practice adopted by other stakeholders in water and sanitation projects;
  • Develop training tools, guidelines and manuals for human resources development and for the adoption of appropriate technology options;
  • Organize water and sanitation education and training at schools, NGOs and at the community level;
  • Assisting local NGOs to enable them to advocate national policy development and changes in the advancement of water and sanitation services that take into consideration community needs, goals and objectives;
  • Advocate support for provision of basics water supply and sanitation services in disadvantaged local communities;
  • Contribute to influencing the international community to stress the prioritization of water as a key area that needs support for poverty alleviation and sustainable development in Africa.