The African Development Bank and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional organisation of Horn of Africa countries, held a webinar to discuss the pressures affecting water security in the Greater Horn of Africa and how AfDB can support regional member countries to better respond to growing water stress.
The virtual discussion, held on 15 December, was hosted by the bank’s Water Development and Sanitation Department and the African Water Facility.
The event was underpinned by several studies indicating that pressures on water supplies will continue to mount in the coming decades as a result of demographic change, urbanisation, environmental degradation, stoking demand for food, energy, and land.
The Greater Horn of Africa countries include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and South Sudan.
Opening the webinar, AfDB’s acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Wambui Gichuri, said water was the source of life, livelihoods, and prosperity, noting that water is indispensable to agriculture, industry, energy, transport, and healthy ecosystems, yet can also cause destruction.
“Water can also be a cause of devastation and poverty through droughts, floods, landslides, as well as through erosion, desertification, pollution, and disease. Achieving water security, through harnessing the productive potential of water and limiting its destructive impact, is a priority for the bank as articulated through its New Policy on Water and other policies and strategies,” Gichuri said.
A regional water expert at the IGAD Secretariat, Fred Mwango, told workshop attendees that perennial droughts in the Greater Horn of Africa had created “climate refugees,” resulting in conflicts between communities within and across borders.
“In 2019 alone, the number of severely food insecure people was estimated at 12m, as a result of the drought,” he said.
He said the answers to water security challenges lay in water governance as much as resource endowments, infrastructure investments, or technology.
The Coordinator of the African Water Facility, Omari Mwinjaka, announced that $33.42m was pledged by the Nordic Development Fund and Denmark towards a new programme to support the COVID-19 response in the Sahel and Horn of Africa through climate-resilient water and sanitation measures, and the management of water, land, and other resources.
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