Initiative helps African water consumers

A UK initiative that helps improve drinking water and sanitation in a handful of African countries by exporting European expertise and skills has entered its fifth year in operation.

The PAWS (Partners for Water and Sanitation) initiative has brought water consumer associations and improved regulation to Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa, and is about to expand its work into Ethiopia.

Since it was established in 2002, PAWS has seen water and engineering companies cooperate with NGOs and Government departments in the UK and Africa to improve access to safe water and sanitation.

In Nigeria, where only 60% of the population have access to safe drinking water and 38% to sanitation, the NGO Tear Fund has been working with local government to create water consumer associations – a new concept to most Nigerians. These should empower water consumers to influence the quality of the services they receive and, it is hoped, introduce a shift in mentality that will have lasting consequences.

South Africa, where access to safe drinking water is not much better at around 66%, saw the application of some of the principles from the EU’s own Water Framework Directive, aiming to promote sustainable water consumption and reduce pollution.

Environment minister Ian Pearson said: “PAWS continues to evolve, providing a solid platform where partners from Government, civil society and business can work together with the people within Africa to develop sustainable solutions in the delivery of water and sanitation services.

“It is particularly encouraging to see the partnership making progress in translating words into actions within its partner countries.

“This is an important contribution towards meeting the Millenium Development Goals targets for water and sanitation and I look forward to the continuing progress by the partnership in providing support, building capacity and developing sustainable solutions in partner countries”.

The PAWS website is at

Goska Romanowicz

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