Using Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services to fight COVID-19: Experiences from African countries

Message from the Executive Secretary

Image placeholder
Dr Canisius Kanangire
Executive Secretary


Dear Partners, Donors and Stakeholders

I would like to take a few minutes to share a brief on AMCOW’s health during the last 18 months and this Covid-19 pandemic.

During the ongoing biennial planning period of February 2019 to February 2021, we developed and completed the AMCOW Strategic Operational Plan for 2020-2024 (SOP 2020-2024) which provides a detailed strategic plan for the first five years of AMCOW Strategy 2018-2030. Whilst the long term AMCOW Strategy was endorsed by the General Assembly in February 2019, the SOP 2020-2024 was approved by the Executive Committee during its online meeting held on 2nd June 2020.

Despite the pandemic and related restrictions, we continued to carry out our various technical activities as identified in the AMCOW Strategy 2018-2030 and prioritized in our operational plans.

As Africa's premier body for water and sanitation leadership, policy directions and knowledge sharing, AMCOW organized, in February 2019, the 5th edition of the AfricaSan Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, and concluded its deliberations with the Camissa multi-stakeholder’s declaration - a call for ending open defecation and achieving Safely Managed Sanitation in Africa. Over 1,300 participated in the event. Despite the uncertainties of the moment, we have started the preparations of the 8th edition of the Africa Water Week and the 6th AfricaSan conference that will take place in 2021 in Windhoek, Namibia. We count on your participation to make it another success.

In May 2019, we launched the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP), an overdue continental effort to coordinate groundwater management through the creation of an enabling environment with sound policy and regulatory frameworks, knowledge base and capacity building. We call upon African Union Member States, Donors and Development Partners to join and support this initiative.

I am glad to inform you that the development of the Africa Sanitation Policy Guidelines (ASPG) continues well despite minor disturbance by Covid-19 restrictions. After consultations with member states, experts are busy drafting and reviewing the document’s draft versions. As that endeavor goes on, we are holding more strategic consultations online and preparing a Ministerial dialogue on Sanitation in December 2020. We plan to have the ASPG completed by end of this year.

During the period 2019-2020, AMCOW continued the strengthening process of its Secretariat. Eight new professional staff members were recruited, two directorates were established – the Directorate of Programs and the Directorate of Finance and Administration - as well as key functions such as the Groundwater Desk, and the Knowledge Management and Information Sharing function, the Monitoring and Reporting, and the Communications and Visibility functions.

The travel and gathering restrictions as well as border closing caused by Covid-19 pandemic led to changing our approach to implementing the 2020 work plan. Meetings and workshops that cannot be implemented online were postponed and new activities emerged. We revised the work plan to adapt to the new situation. For the first time, we organized the AMCOW Executive Committee meeting online on 2nd June. It was preceded by a meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee. Both were highly attended and very successful. In May, we held an online meeting to coordinate WASH response to Covid-19 at ministerial level and delivered several webinars. In August, we launched our 2nd round of sub-regional consultations. The consultations aim to strengthen the delivery of AMCOW’s work plans and provide guidance while ensuring national-level adoption and implementation in the 5 African regions. We are experimenting a new and efficient way of organizing meetings. As much as Covid-19 pandemic exposed the Water and Sanitation sector’s weaknesses, it also showed the innovation and resilience capacity of the African continent and the will and efforts to recover quickly.

AMCOW is working hard and coordinating key players to ensure that lessons learnt from Member States are gathered and shared, and that through policies, strategies, plans and capacity building, Africa gets out of this pandemic better prepared to successfully address any similar disaster.

I wish to thank member states, development partners and all our stakeholders for their continued support. It is only by coordinated efforts and working in solidarity that we will overcome Covid-19 pandemic and its related economic crisis, and get out of it stronger enough to pursue our race toward the SDG targets.

Keep safe and healthy. Thank you