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Celebrating World Water Day

Published on: 21/03/2016

The African water sector needs qualified staff in all disciplines, not just engineering.

Juste Hermann NANSI, Director IRC Burkina Senior Expert Water and Sanitation PolicyWorld Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity initiated by the United Nations since 1993 to highlight water-related issues and inspire decisions and actions to make a difference.

The topic of 2016 - water and jobs - focuses on how jobs related to the provision of adequate water services, can change people's lives and transform societies and economies. Obviously, almost all the jobs of humanity are conditioned by water in addition to those directly related to the supply of water. Unfortunately, the problems associated with employment in the water sector in African developing countries are often poorly known and therefore not sufficiently supported by public authorities.

In rural areas, community organisations or small private operators often employ water suppliers and service providers. These are limited in number compared to the needs and seriously lack the professional skills and abilities required to provide quality services.

In municipalities, local authorities lack qualified technical personnel for the planning, monitoring, coordination and other functions related to their responsibilities. Even government agencies are desperately short of qualified staff, both at regionally and nationally level.

Often we think that the only jobs in the water sector are for engineers and techncians whose work focuses on boreholes, pumps, dams, etc. But in reality, the sector needs specialised professionals from many other disciplines to address water-related problems. These disciplines include management sciences, statistics, legal sciences, political sciences, economics, finance, communication, geography, sociology, etc. All these disciplines are essential, as well as engineering to promote efficient and sustainable water services. But they remain unfortunately less acknowledged and therefore not solicited and undervalued.

Without skilled professionals in national and regional governments, public and private companies, municipalities, NGOs and community organisations, developing countries willne unable to provide sustainable access to water services for everyone. We shouldn't forget that human rights to water and sanitation as established by the United Nations, are essential for the full realisation of the right to life and all other human rights.

Professionalisation of the water sector and increasing the number of jobs not only supports the right to water but also youth employment and the national economy.

National authorities, country leaders, development partners, sponsors of professional training and jobs, need to act now!