|Water Aid opens office in SA|
The international charity organisation, Water Aid, has opened its regional office in South Africa in an effort to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world's neediest communities.
Officially opened on Wednesday by Water and Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the office in Pretoria will help Water Aid strengthen its advocacy campaigning and policy work in the region, and give the organisation more flexibility in responding to water challenges as they arise.
The new office will further provide an opportunity for Water Aid to work closely with the South African government on a number of key strategic areas for the region.
Speaking at the launch, Mabudafhasi said it was high time South Africa and its partners intensified the response to water and sanitation issues as there were still millions of people who did not have access to the precious resource.
Mabudafhasi was anxious for water access to be increased, as the deadline for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals loomed ever nearer.
"Government cannot work alone but needs [the help of] NGOs, which assist us to ensure that everybody has access to service delivery... We need to look at many issues relating to water, and the department and Water Aid ... will forge a strong partnership to benefit the whole of South Africa and other organisations.
"[Water Aid] has been working in other countries, so we'll integrate what we know," Mabudafhasi said.
She gave the assurance that the department would support the organisation in its endeavours and work hand in hand with them to improve the lives of people.
"We need skills development and skills transfer; you (Water Aid) need to work harder and focus on developing women and youth programmes."
Water Aid works in 27 countries through four regional teams in Asia, West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa.
The organisation transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities and as part of its fight against poverty, it also focuses on health, education and livelihoods.
CEO of Water Aid in the UK, Barbara Frost, said they had for many years envisaged opening offices in South Africa so they could learn from the country as it had made progress, and was a real leader in the field of water and sanitation.
"This partnership will help us in making sure that people have access to safe water and improve sanitation," Frost said.
Globally, 2.5 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation and 783 million are without safe drinking water.
Director of International Programmes at Water Aid, Girish Menon, said working with South Africa was a dream come true. He said being in SA would position them closer to "where the action is" as the country had a strong regional and international influence in realising the right to water and sanitation for the poor.
"South Africa is far ahead and it's on track to meet the sanitation coverage. There are a lot of lessons to learn on how they have managed to do it," said Menon. - SAnews.gov.za
By Gabi Khumalo