Friday, June 29, 2012

ETHIOPIA: Safe water - a glass half full-(IRIN)

Just 42 percent of rural Ethiopians have access to safe drinking water (file photo)
ADDIS ABABA, 27 June 2012 (IRIN) - More than half of all Ethiopians have access to an improved source of drinking water, but the country still has much work to do if it hopes to achieve its goal of providing access to safe water and sanitation for its 83 million people by 2015, experts say. 

"Despite an increase in coverage, the number of people that require access to sanitation and hygiene, for instance, are still the highest in Africa, if not the world," said Kebede Faris, water and sanitation expert for the World Bank's Ethiopia office. "As a result, a significant number of Ethiopians are still facing WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene]-related health problems and also losing their lives." 

A recently released study by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) shows that some 271,000 Ethiopian children under the age of five died in 2010 alone, with pneumonia and diarrhoea causing more than one-third of those deaths. 

The authors said "basic steps" such as hand-washing with soap, expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation, along with providing other medical services, could have saved their lives. The problem remains: "An overwhelming majority, nine households in every 10, does not treat their drinking water," leaving them susceptible to various health problems. 

Ethiopia is seeking to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals' targets on water, sanitation and hygiene through itsUniversal Access Plan II, which seeks to provide 98.5 percent of the population with access to safe water along with 100 percent access to sanitation by 2015. 

Nationally, the proportion of Ethiopian households with access to an improved source of drinking water - categorized as a public tap or stand pipe, borehole, a protected well, spring water and rainwater - has reached 54 percent, according to theDemographic Health Survey 2011. However, there are significant disparities between urban households, where 95 percent of people have access to an improved source of drinking water, and rural areas where just 42 percent access safe drinking water. 

Rural-urban divide 

Like access to water services, government data shows a wide gap in access to sanitation between urban and rural households. According to the country's Growth and Transformation Plan 2010, the national coverage of sanitation stands at 60 percent, with rural coverage at 56 percent, compared to 88 percent for urban households. 

"Building latrines is not enough. A systematic approach that focuses on quality or building to minimum standards, maintenance and use are equally important," said the World Bank’s Kebede, adding that there was a need "to invest now to save more future lives and impairments of many kinds". 

Other water-borne diseases are also common as a result of poor water and sanitation. "With more than 65 million people living in the trachoma endemic parts of rural Ethiopia, we need to reach out to more people and fast, with proper sanitation and hygiene practices, as most of the cases are happening in areas where water supply and sanitary conditions are poor," said Menebere Alemeu, country representative for NGO International Trachoma Initiative.  

More on water and sanitation
 MADAGASCAR: Addressing toilet taboos to improve sanitation
 IRAQ: Call to adopt modern irrigation techniques
 ZIMBABWE: Growing risk of waterborne diseases in rural areas
 PAKISTAN: Water woes compounded by internal disputes
The organization reports that more than 75 percent of visual impairment in the country caused by trachoma is related to the lack of sanitation and hygiene. 

The government has expressed its ambition to achieve the set targets. "Our eyes are on our own Growth and Transformation Plan targets, but globally we are also committed to achieving the MDGs [UN Millennium Development Goals]," said Minister of Health Tedros Adhanom. 

Finding the money 

However, the government's budgetary allocation to the water sector has been decreasing over the years, "declining almost by half - from 4 percent in 2006 to 2.5 percent in 2010", according to international NGO WaterAid. The inadequate budget for the water sector and the growing cost of establishing water and sanitation services could also see the country pay more for services, according to another recent study by the Ministry of Finance and the UN. 

"The budget is calculated based on the current and future cost investment this sector requires and we are on [the] right track of securing the financing," said Yohannes Gebremedhin an official with the Ministry of Water and Energy. “We are now working on issues related to sustainability of the systems we set up with communities," he said, adding that this would cut down on the costs of repairing systems. 

Recent updates to Ethiopia's universal water access plan and a new hygiene and sanitation Strategic Action Plan suggest that the cost of meeting the national WASH targets is now closer to US$2.4 billion, with $1.75 billion dedicated solely to the rural water supply. 

"With this plan…we need to work on innovative, cost-effective sector-wide approaches along with securing the necessary budget on time so as to meet the target set," said Daniel Gelan, UNICEF's WASH expert. "We, along with the government, are working strongly to find the budget sources and are doing well so far." 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Study: Newborns are 40% of preventable child deaths –

WASHINGTON – Newborns now account for 40% of preventable child deaths worldwide, but only a tiny fraction of international aid targets newborns, according to a report to be published in the medical journal Health Policy and Planning Tuesday.
  • USAID director Raj Shah tells USA TODAY that nations should step up efforts to reduce preventable child deaths.
    By Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images
    USAID director Raj Shah tells USA TODAY that nations should step up efforts to reduce preventable child deaths.

By Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images
USAID director Raj Shah tells USA TODAY that nations should step up efforts to reduce preventable child deaths.

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The study, which was spearheaded by the advocacy group Save the Children and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, comes as the Obama administration, India and Ethiopia prepare to host a summit in Washington on Thursday focused on bolstering efforts to reduce the number of children younger than 5 who die from preventable ailments.
The world is far off track in achieving one of theMillennium Development Goals set in 2000 — of reducing preventable child deaths by 66% by 2015 — but U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Raj Shah told USA TODAY he hasn't given up hope of reaching the target.
"This meeting is about that acceleration," Shah said. "It's about looking at the evidence, making the tough calls and doing things much differently and engaging a much broader set of partners so that we can accelerate progress."
President Obama has emphasized the need to reduce child mortality rates, and USAID has attempted to raise the profile of the issue by enlisting celebrities (Kim Kardashian and Mandy Moore) and politicians (former president Bill Clinton) to submit childhood photos for an online project called Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday.
The world has made progress in reducing preventable child deaths in recent years. More than 7 million children are expected to die from preventable illnesses this year, down from the approximately 12.4 million who died worldwide in 1990. But the numbers — roughly 20,000 children dying each day — continue to have a transformational effect on societies seeking to achieve peace and stability, Shah said.
In 2010, 3.1 million newborns worldwide died in their first month, 17% fewer than in 2000. But the annual reduction rate of deaths of newborns, now at 2.1%, lags behind that of children ages 1-59 months, which stands at 2.9%.
Official development assistance for maternal, newborn and child health doubled from 2003 to 2008, yet only 6% of this funding mentioned newborns in 2008 and 0.1% of these funds exclusively targeted newborns. The U.S. accounted for $619.5 million in aid from 2002 to 2009 targeting newborns and maternal care, doubling the next biggest donor, the World Bank.
"When we did the funding analysis, it made you feel like laughing and crying at the same time," said Joy Lawn, lead author of the Save the Children study.
UNICEF said in a report last week that pneumonia and diarrhea are two of the leading killers — accounting for 29% of deaths among children under age 5 worldwide — and said the global community should increase its focus on those diseases.
"Deaths due to these diseases are largely preventable through optimal breastfeeding practices and adequate nutrition, vaccinations, hand washing with soap, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, among other measures," the report said.
Shah said the global community needs to do more on all fronts to reduce the yawning death toll.
Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo— five countries that account for nearly half of all preventable deaths of children under 5 — are expected to announce a series of initiatives and new policies at this week's meeting in Washington. Performance needs to improve dramatically among these countries in order to get back on track, Shah said.
"Unlike in prior efforts, where maybe donor countries like the United States, the U.K. or others would dictate the solutions," he said, "in this effort, these countries are co-convening and are defining their efforts."

Monday, June 4, 2012

New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition | The White House

This weekend, the leaders of the world’s largest economies and four African heads of state will come together at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David for a very different kind of discussion on Africa. Joined by private sector leaders for the first time, the President will host a dynamic discussion on global efforts to fight food insecurity and improve nutrition. In 2009 at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama and G8 leaders responded to the spike in world food prices and focused attention on strengthening food security to help countries end hunger. Reversing decades of decline in global agricultural development, L’Aquila committed leaders to supporting comprehensive plans designed by the developing countries themselves and built around smarter, more focused investments.
This weekend, the G-8 and African partners will launch the next phase of these efforts: theNew Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security. The New Alliance is a commitment by G8 nations, African countries and private sector partners to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth.
A boy and a woman struggle with dusty wind looking for water in Wajir, Kenya
A boy and a woman struggle with dusty wind looking for water in Wajir, Kenya (by Jervis Sundays, Kenya Red Cross Society)
Across history, the private sector has served as an engine of growth and transformation in nearly every country in the world. But although foreign direct investment flows to Africa now hover around $80 billion and trade has tripled over the last decade, this private sector boom has largely missed Africa’s agricultural economy. 
This transformation – from aid alone to aid AND private investment; from just providing assistance to combining assistance and investment – is at the heart of our approach to the next steps of food security and why we’re placing such an emphasis on bringing in private capital and expanding access to markets.
More than 45 private sector firms—from large multinational companies like Yara International to small local businesses like Ethiopia’s Omega Farms—have stepped forward to invest more than $3 billion in African agriculture. And building on a decade of strong leadership, African countries are committing to specific policy reforms that shape a better environment for business. 
Alongside them, donor countries are seeking to maintain their investments and accelerate implementation of country-owned plans. We are also supporting new advances in science and technology, like highly nutritious seeds that can withstand droughts and thrive in floods, and new tools to help poor farmers manage risk.  And the New Alliance is elevating an emphasis on undernutrition, which robs children of their lifelong potential and undermines investments in education, health and economic growth.
With this smart approach, working together, we can deliver real results for millions of families and help build a safer, more prosperous future for us all.
Gayle Smith is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy at the National Security Council and Dr. Rajiv Shah is USAID Administrator