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Commissioner Piebalgs' reaction to the Court of Auditor's report on water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa

I welcome today's report by the Court of Auditors (COA) on Drinking-Water Supply and Basic Sanitation in six sub-Saharan Africa countries. I am very pleased to see that the Court recognised that the EU support "has made a valuable contribution to meeting important development objectives" and qualified the projects as "sustainable". The examined water projects have "increased access to drinking water and basic sanitation" to the people in need in Africa and were "installed as planned and in working order". The report is timely as the UN General Assembly meets this week to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals and water and sanitation is high on the agenda.

I was particularly pleased to see that EU projects like "Closing the Gap" (a project to provide clean water in 12 cities in Northern Nigeria by financing the construction of boreholes, a water network and latrines) were highlighted as success stories.. By helping local communities to identify for themselves what they needed from the project, "Closing the Gap" aimed to make long-lasting changes in behaviour; therefore doing much more than just providing infrastructure in the community. It has since been replicated in over 100 small towns.

The EU has already made significant progress in water and sanitation. Nine out of ten people worldwide now have access to drinking water, and the EU has been a champion of this achievement. From 2004 to 2009, we have provided 32 million people with access to safe drinking water and 9.5 million to sanitation. From 2010 to 2015, as part of the European Water Facility, some 105 projects are planned in 35 countries to supply drinking water to 7.7 million people. Water and sanitation is also a priority area of the 1 billion euro MDG initiative launched last year to help achieving off-tracks MDGs. Just last week, we announced new funding which will benefit 15 million people in Egypt, by constructing and rehabilitating the infrastructure needed to supply water.

However, there is no room for complacency and there is always a need for improvement.  – Up to 4,000 children die every day from dirty drinking water, and half of hospital beds in developing countries are taken up with people suffering from diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Some 2.5 billion people around the world have no access to sanitation.

The European Commission agrees with the report's findings that full use should be made of monitoring, appraisal and evaluation tools. Most of the projects mentioned in this report were done before the creation of our "Quality Support Groups", which have since been put in place to ensure clearer objectives and facilitate monitoring of all of our projects (in line with the report's recommendations.)

We also agree with the COA that across the board, not enough has been done to improve sanitation in the past. That is why we now take the hygiene and sanitation into account when new projects are set up –particularly in rural and semi-urban areas.

I am also looking forward to see a broader analysis of our water projects that goes beyond the Sub-Saharan Africa examined by the COA. As anyone can understand, sub-Saharan Africa is particularly challenging and our ambition is to reach people who really need our help, which often means the projects are run in remote areas and difficult environment.

We will now take forward the court's recommendations in order to build on the success we've already achieved in this area and maximise our lasting impact. In the meantime, I want to reconfirm the EU's strong commitment to making sure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to clean, safe water and sanitation.

Background

EuropeAid is European Commission's Directorate–General responsible for designing EU development policies and delivering aid through programmes and projects across the world. The main objective of EU development policy is to fight poverty around the world. Results of EuropeAid's work include: 32 million people connected to drinking water, more than 10 million children enrolled in primary education, 600 000 families provided with access to electricity. We also helped to immunise more than 5 million children against measles and provided antiretroviral combination therapy to around 800 000 HIV-infected patients, thanks to our Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The budget of EuropeAid is ca. 12 billion euro a year.

Last update: 15/09/2014 |  Top