West Africa is a large and diverse region of 21 countries facing some of the most significant development challenges in the world. West Africa has a population of approximately 367 million, and will more than double (to 909 million) by 2050 due to the world’s highest rate of population growth. More than half the population is rural but quickly urbanizing, leading to increased stresses on already weak urban infrastructure, such as water supply, sanitation, and power. Peri-urban areas are often comprised of informal settlements with limited infrastructure, such as running water, electricity, health care, and education.
The USAID West Africa (WA) Mission’s WASH activities target rural areas of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia where water supply and sanitation services are inadequate. Overall, USAID partners have found that less than 50 percent of water pumps are working in many areas and the water quality at access points is highly questionable and unverifiable.
Capacity Building: To address capacity-building needs, USAID selected three regional universities as focal points for WASH training: the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Burkina Faso; the University of Niamey, Niger; and the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana. Through USAID WASH initiatives, 173,600 people now have improved access to drinking water and 265,600 have improved access to sanitation services. The program has also leveraged parallel WASH investments from other donors.
Several activities have started to address capacity gaps in the WASH sector. First, USAID is providing direct support to the African Water Association (AWA) through the African Water Association Institutional Capacity Building Program (AfriCap). AWA has a mandate to improve sanitation and drinking water supply in West Africa, in addition to sharing knowledge and best WASH practices. AfriCap also includes a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to build the capacity of water quality laboratories in Ghana and Burkina Faso with the ultimate goal of developing scalable models for laboratory capacity development across West Africa. Finally, in Ghana, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire, USAID is engaging the private sector to meet the sanitation needs through the Sanitation Service Delivery activity.
Health: West Africa is home to some of the world’s worst health indicators, including the world’s highest rate of maternal mortality. The region is also still reeling from Ebola pandemic, which was compounded by pre-existing weak and overtaxed health systems. Part of USAID/WA’s strategy is to promote best practices in health and water and sanitation service delivery, both technical and managerial. This governance-focused approach will help empower communities to advocate for quality health and water and sanitation services.
USAID/WA activities concentrate on the supply side of service delivery and on strengthening the enabling environment from the community to the regional level to increase utilization of quality health and water and sanitation services. USAID/WA is also working with such institutions as Water and Sanitation for Africa to improve its management and leadership capacities and to enhance its ability to develop, implement, and track national-level policies, and facilitate the generation and use of quality data and information to improve decision-making.