AMREF joins global partners in advocating for integrated water and energy solutions: World Water Day 2014

By Austin Beebe, Technical Lead for water and sanitation, AMREF

Austin Beebe (right) with AMREF Canada Executive Director Anne-Marie Kamanye Austin Beebe (right) with AMREF Canada Executive Director Anne-Marie Kamanye

Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation. Although access to water supply and sanitation in Africa has been steadily improving over the past two decades, a lot still needs to be done.  Often, the same people who lack access to improved water sources and sanitation also lack access to electricity.

Today, 1.3 billion people are in this situation; it is unacceptable and requires urgent attention. 768 million people across the globe lack access to improved water sources while 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities.  About 340 million people in Africa do not have reasonable access to safe drinking water and nearly 230 million people defecate in the open. Despite these statistics, the continent is well endowed with fossil fuels: oil, gas and coal, and renewable resources: hydro-power and geothermal in particular. Yet access to modern affordable energy sources is still a challenge for many African nations.

This year, AMREF joins the world in celebrating World Water Day themed: Water and Energy.  In realizing that water and energy are closely interlinked and interdependent, there is need to ensure that water resources are available to all, irrespective of their economic status.  Yet, these resources are scarce in developing economies even though generation and transmission of energy often requires utilization of well developed water resources.

Inequitable distribution of water resources has seen billions of people, especially those who live in slums and rural areas, suffer the consequences of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation facilities and energy services.

In most parts of Africa, the common reality for many women and children is that they have to carry 20 litres of the precious liquid and firewood for domestic energy use for very long distances of not less than one kilometre.  Sometimes it is not safe to collect firewood from the bushes thereby putting them in grave danger.

In ensuring that the communities served by AMREF receive potable water for domestic use, AMREF uses a variety of energy sources to pump water. In several projects, AMREF has worked in co-operation with various international partners and supporters.  The Mtwara water and sanitation (WASH) project in Tanzania is the largest project where AMREF has used massive solar powered equipment to deliver water to communities. Through this project and other similar projects, AMREF continues to provide rural areas with affordable and environmental friendly off-grid energy as well as clean drinking water, while creating opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and education. Over, 15,000 people in Mtwara alone have benefited from such installations.

AMREF’s projects are aimed at improving the health and livelihood of local communities by providing access to sustainable, environmental friendly and affordable off-grid energy services, such as light, potable water and improved communication.  AMREF has further increased accessibility of safe water supply in health centres; increased capacities for operations and maintenance of water systems and; improved safe personal hygiene practices for mothers and their newborns. In 2013, the number of people reached with access to water (20 litres per capita per day; within 20 minutes) was 16,858, while the number of people with access to an improved sanitation facility was 107,637. More women (48,122) and girls (14,423)have been reached in line with AMREF’s targeted focus on women and children.

In order to touch the lives of more disadvantaged communities, AMREF calls for the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that will ensure the useful integrated approaches to water-energy issues to achieve greater economic and social impact.  We consistently advocate for energy access for all people living in Africa and better strategies that can benefit all across the continent.  We call on partners to ensure that the 1.3 billion people who have no access to sustainable energy get access because we are convinced that without access to energy, it will be difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.