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The Global Handwashing Partnership

The Ngor Declaration: Towards dignity through sanitation and hygiene

June 3, 2015

At the AfricaSan4 conference for Sanitation and Hygiene, held in Dakar, Senegal in May 2015, the unofficial theme was dignity, so it is apt that when it came to naming AfricaSan’s Ministerial Declaration for Water and Sanitation, it was called Ngor, meaning dignity in Wolof, the Senegalese national language.

The Ministers attending AfricaSan4 have delivered a succinct and impactful successor to the eThekwini Commitments delivered at AfricaSan3. The Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene defines clear, achievable commitments intended to deliver dignity and equity in sanitation and hygiene in Africa in the next fifteen years. So, what does the new Declaration do for handwashing?

The Ngor Declaration explicitly recognizes the failure of many African countries to deliver large-scale hygiene behavior change thus far, and acknowledges that poor hygiene practices result in “a huge burden of disease”. The Declaration calls for universal access to “adequate and sustainable” hygiene services by 2030, including, encouragingly, an explicit commitment to the provision of “functional hand-washing facilities in public institutions and spaces.”

The Declaration also focuses on eliminating inequities of access to sanitation and hygiene. To do so, it seeks to mobilize political support, engage the private sector in innovation, and includes the explicit commitment of government resources, including a commitment to consistently increase sanitation and hygiene budget lines on an annual basis by a minimum of 0.5% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product by 2020. There is also a commitment to strengthen human resources capacity, coordinating across sectors (including water, health, nutrition, education, gender and the environment), and undertaking government-led monitoring, evaluation and learning. With the right funding and leadership, these ambitious commitments can be delivered.

These new commitments come at an interesting moment. With many eyes focused on the drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this summer, how does the Ngor Declaration fit with the commitments associated with the imminent SDGs? The Declaration explicitly welcomes the SDG draft target “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and an end to open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”. The Ngor Declaration calls to integrate this target into national policies and plans.

It is ironic that despite the resounding prioritization of hygiene by Ministers at AfricaSan4, the latest feedback from the SDG deliberations indicate that hygiene is in danger of being dropped from the official list of indicators under consideration. We hope that the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators will hear the voices of the Ministers from AfricaSan4, respect their priorities as defined in the Ngor Declaration, and ensure that hygiene is measured alongside sanitation in the SDGs.

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