Water and Sanitation: On-the-Ground Realities Challenge African Governments to Act

Access to safe water and sanitation is a human right, a prerequisite for good public health and development – and a persistent challenge for most African governments. As the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us, if we needed a reminder, hygiene saves lives. With eight years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 (SDG6) of ensuring the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030, billions of people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation services, and basic handwashing facilities. Are African countries making progress toward the targets of SDG6? Findings from Afrobarometer surveys in 34 countries suggest that most are not. While experiences vary widely across countries, on average almost half of Africans don’t have access to piped-water systems, and only a minority live in areas served by sewage systems. A growing number of people are experiencing shortages of clean water. These problems are particularly severe for rural residents and the economically disadvantaged. In 24 out of 34 countries, majorities say their governments are doing a poor job of providing water and sanitation services.