Demanding access to water in Sudan: latest blog from EnvI
Written by: Hanan El-Amin Muddathir, Founder & Chairperson of Environmental Initiative Organization for Sustainable Development (EnvI), Sudan Focal point for SWA, EWP, ANEW National and International Member for Post 2015 and SDGs Dialogue.
EnvI currently acts as the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) civil society organisations (CSO) focal point for Sudan. We work with a number of partners, including the "Sudanese Consumers Protection Society", and "Sudanese Health Promotion Society", as we are all committed to pushing the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) agenda in our country. Working in a partnership, as well as within the SWA, helps to strengthen our voice and the visibility of our issue, and really push for a prioritisation on WASH for all in Sudan.
We do this through multiple ways and actions, using many advocacy tools such as the media, public events and international celebrations, as well as conducting consultation meetings with all stakeholders. All of these different actions help with our work, campaigning to ensure the human right to water and sanitation is realised in our country. We also target advocacy at the central government (particularly the council of Ministers), policy and decision makers, and parliamentarians, as these bodies are very important stakeholders in pushing to ensure they are well informed about the WASH agenda, and are prioritising water and sanitation delivery.
One recent case study of our work is in the capital of Khartoum State. This has a rapidly growing population, with very large groups of internally displaced groups migrating in from rural areas which have been ravaged by war, or drought and climate change impacts. This has resulted in many groups suffering from failing basic services, as a result of damages to water and sewage systems infrastructure and pipelines. Systems are not coping with the needs of an ever-increasing population, with even humanitarian services insufficient for addressing these problems.
This situation requires urgent and critical action, as people are unable to meet their basic needs and therefore are not able to fulfill their human rights. People have become increasingly frustrated about their growing struggles over water shortages and failing basic services. Many are forced to pay charges to the government for water consumption, as this is automatically included within the electricity bill per household. But this has been for nothing! Almost 25 town district areas lack basic water provision and services, and most have very poor residents. This has to stop. People cannot be forced to pay for a service they are not even able to access.
Through our advocacy campaigns and actions, civil society has helped to raise awareness about the true situation on the ground and just how much people are struggling and lacking basic services. We have been working hard to push for this unacceptable reality to be resolved and for people to be able to access their basic human rights. Very recently, we have had a truly important breakthrough.
After being appointed for just two weeks in power, the new government for Khartoum State has announced a new strategic vision on WASH issues, and is now implementing a full coordination mechanism among key actors, such as the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Water Cooperation Authority, and the State Ministry of Finance. This new strategy aims to secure a greatly improved budget, an estimated $1 million (USD), dedicated to building new infrastructure, as well as rehabilitating existing systems for improved water and sanitation services. This is great news, and EnvI and others in our WASH alliance are very happy with this positive step forward, however we will continue to advocate to ensure a fruitful implementation of improved services for all. It is time that the human right to water and sanitation is realised in Sudan. This step demonstrates a positive change within key decision-makers to seek for better service delivery and the protection of all citizens. It also helped to show us that it is possible to seek change and ensure tangible actions fulfill government commitments.
Following this announcement, we used the opportunity to highlight the commitments made by government at previous AfricaSan conferences, including the eThekwini declaration (of 2008) and the most recent Ngor declaration (of 2015). This recent commitment was for the Sudanese government to allocate at least 0.5% of the gross domestic product of the country to improving sanitation by 2020. EnvI, along with others in CSO WASH alliances, used different media platforms, including being interviewed by the daily newspaper ‘Al-Sudani’ to highlight these issues and to get our voices heard. This is a positive step for Sudan, but we will carry on working to make sure that government keep their promises!
Environmental Initiative Organization for Sustainable Development (EnvI) targets through its strategy in addressing environmental sustainability three programmes: • “The Environmental Citizenship" Program, which promote environmental sustainability among communities, and social inclusion. • "Data Acquisition and Environmental Information Sharing” Program, in order to provide information for end users and decision makers, for effective decision making. • “Peace building for Induced and displaced people” program, which target affected people by climate change, building their resilience, and conflict resolution.