Regulation is keynote address at Malawi 1st National Sanitation Conference

Malawi from 28th to 29th November, 2019 held its first National Sanitation Conference as one of the efforts to find solutions to the country’s many sanitation challenges and improve sanitation services to align them with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mainly Goal 6.2 that requires countries to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation by 2030.

Held under the theme ‘scaling up access to improved sanitation’, the two-day conference held in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, brought together local and international scientists, development partners, investors, practitioners and academia working in water, sanitation and hygiene, health, planning, climate change, environment, socio-economics, policy, and other related disciplines.

Some of the issues discussed through various keynote speeches and presentations included sanitation best practices, innovations and new knowledge. The presentations specifically touched on broad sub-themes such as financing the sanitation sector; waste management; policy and regulation; rural sanitation; water borne sanitation; and on-site sanitation.

The conference was jointly organized by the Water Services Association of Malawi (WASAMA), Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (WESNET) and the Government of Malawi. Among several dignitaries to the conference included Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Honourable Kondwani Nankhumwa; the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Gray Nyandule Phiri; Engineer Peter Njaggah of Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association; and Ms. Nompumelelo Ntshalintshali-Motsa, Sanitation for All (SWA) Regional Coordinator for Africa.

Engineer Njaggah presented one of the conference’s keynote addresses discussing the Regional Regulatory Framework on Inclusive Sanitation (both sewer and non-sewered). The keynote address looked at ESAWAS initiatives in upscaling sanitation access in East and Southern Africa through capacity building, regulatory frameworks and strategies.

He opened the keynote address by exploring the definition of sanitation and what it is all about; the relationship between sanitation and achieving the UN SDG 6 on water and sanitation; the cost of poor sanitation; and the ESAWAS initiatives.

According to Engineer Njaggah, poor sanitation has a huge cost. Currently, poor sanitation costs Malawi MK8.8 billion (almost US$57 million) each year. This sum is the equivalent of US$3.8 per person in Malawi per year or 1.1% of the national GDP.

Engineer Njaggah told the conference that the Association, formed in 2009, has  ten-members -Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Burundi, Zanzibar, Malawi and Uganda.

“In ESAWAS member states, an estimated 50 million people use non-sewered sanitation facilities,” said Engineer Najaggah.

He said one of the goals of ESAWAS is to ensure that these 50 plus million people have safely managed sanitation services through regulation by 2030. He said meeting the SDGs targets requires a pragmatic approach and genuine reforms that include non-sewered sanitation.

He also said it was discovered that these ESAWAS member countries “do not have laws/acts and regulations dedicated for on-site sanitation and faecal sludge management instead they are mostly dedicated for water supply and sewerage.”

Again, in some member countries, “same institution could be a policy maker as well as a regulator.” Engineer Njaggah said for policies to bring about efficiency in obtaining the intended results a policy maker should not be a policy implementer as this brings conflict during implementation.

Engineer Njaggah said: “Genuine reforms in the sanitation sector will require strong and functional regulatory framework (Policy,  Legal , Institutional and Regulation) that would also address the full chain of non-sewered sanitation; an inclusive urban Sanitation approach that combines both sewered and non-sewered sanitation services; change of attitudes since poor sanitation impacts on so many segments of the economy and costs the nation money, time and pain; and predictable and sustained investments.”

He also said there is need that people must pay for sanitation: there should be sanitation development charge for those without proper sanitary facilities and cost related sanitation charge for those provided with service.

In his remarks Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development said with a good percentage of the Malawi population not having access to safely managed and improved sanitation facilities and the many challenges being faced in the sector, there is need to find means of how the nation can accelerate the progress towards achieving the SGD target.

Another keynote address was by Ms. Ntshalintshali-Motsa who discussed mutual accountability mechanism in sanitation in relation to the vision of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership, a global partnership with over 200 members working together to increase political commitment to water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and to strengthen mutual accountability and effectiveness within the sector.

A veteran academician in water and sanitation Professor Victor Chipofya also presented a keynote address looking at Scaling up access to improved sanitation: Leaving no one behind. Prof Chipofya provided an overview of the Rural-Urban WASH Statistics in Malawi and said the statistics show that there are a lot of people who have been left behind in as far as provision of sanitation services is concerned and there is need of scaling up sanitation without leaving anyone behind by following several principles.

The principles included renewed commitment by the stakeholders; prioritize the commitments; putting up strong structures such as the likes of WASAMA and Wesnet which he said could have a bearing on resource mobilization; and being able to show lasting upscale results which means quality outcomes.

During the conference some of the participating organizations mounted pavilions showcasing various innovations, new technologies and services in the sanitation sector. Minister Nankhumwa took time to appreciate the displays in the pavilions before officially opening the conference and spent a good part of day one listening to the keynote speeches and presentations.

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