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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March 2005, 11:26 GMT
Free water for all in Africa?
Boy collecting water in Tanzania (courtesy of WaterAid)
Unsafe water and poor sanitation are blamed for 80% of all sickness globally
This week's World Water Day marked the start of the United Nations' international decade of action dubbed "Water for Life".

The decade aims to half the number of people without access to clean water by 2015 - one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

An estimated one billion people worldwide have no access to clean water and 6,000 children die every day because of infections linked to unclean water, the UN says.

Competition for water is also a potential source of conflict in Africa - with rising tension between Egypt and other countries along the Nile about the use of the river's waters.

Will Africa meet the 2015 target? Is privatisation of water services the best solution? Are you prepared to pay for access to clean water? And are you worried that Africa might go to war over water?

Let us know your views using the form on the right.

A selection of your opinions will be broadcast on Saturday 26 March on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme at 1700 GMT.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

The economic benefits from the constant supply of clean water alone are reason enough to work tirelessly towards clean water. At the same time, the goal of increasing access to clean water will along the way fix many of Africa's other lingering problems such as poverty and corruption. This means that Africans should strive even harder to make this a goal. As far as the issue of the Nile is concerned, it need not be a point of contention. However, I believe all concerned parties should realise that the water is there for all to be fairly used to prosper.
Wondimeneh Tesfayesus, Ohio, USA (Ethiopian)

Like many of Africa's problems, this is potentially an "unsolvable" problem because of population growth which is simply out of control. War over water is inevitable, especially when you consider that developed nations are going to struggle to provide aid in the medium to longer term as the world's diminishing oil supplies cripples developed nations economies.
Dave Bee, Southampton, England

The world is not really sincere about getting water into Africa. I am a Nigerian with a Masters research degree from a South African University specialising in waste water and water treatment - to get internship in any of the top water treatment companies has been a mission not to mention getting a job and experience and later doing something for the people of the continent. I sincerely feel that the world and the business community in the water sector are simply not interested in seeing Africa bring up their own people in helping to solve the unending water problem on the continent. Simply because of the level of monetary investment that most European countries and their companies just want to keep their hegemony of the water sector.
Fasemore Olufemi Alexander, Johannesburg, South Africa

The 2015 target can be met without any doubt! The only problem is that many of our governments need to seriously sit down and set their priorities right. Water should be a top issue on any agenda and by now we should not even be talking about it. However, our political figureheads do not care about it and instead desire to move in posh cars and live in plush houses. I do not see any reason why we should pay for access to clean water... especially if it comes free from God. Talking of a war over water... I have yet to even think of it. With all the great big rivers that flow in our beautiful continent there is not the slightest thought of "WAR over WATER." Our great leaders please have your priorities right!
Bhaven Naik, Kabwe, Zambia

This will be a major step in turning things around in Africa. Water and electricity are two of the basic necessities in Africa, and the availability of these two could lead to a lot of other good things. If only we could get rid of the corruption! We may run into problems getting people, especially the poor uneducated people, to pay for it initially. In the end, if there is development around them to bring them out of poverty, they may come to realise the benefit of paying for it. The delivery, of course, should not be in the hands of profit-making companies.
Granville Jones, VA, USA (Sierra Leonean)

Poverty encourages large families and a high population adds to poverty levels. Break that cycle and many more problems than water will be solved.
Alasdair, Johannesburg, South Africa

I have my doubts about water privatisation. In the community in which I lived in Tanzania for a few months, people very often could simply not afford the privatised water service, given the high costs of living since structural adjustment. Clean water should be a basic right, and a workable solution to this problem is certainly possible.
Leslie, Charlottesville, Va, USA

Paying for something that could save your life, like clean water, should not be an issue because you can not put a price on life. Africa and the surrounding nations should realise that they all are in the "same boat" and war will not help solve their problem with getting clean water, if anything more life will be lost.
Janelle Freed, Pennsylvania, USA

Privatisation of waters services might be a better solution to some countries in Africa. But in the case of Nile River water, I think the best solution would be to pay for access to clean water. I would hope Egypt is prepared to pay for the water as the Eastern African countries are now gaining stability from civil wars and that means they will be more demand for the clean water. For example Sudan will be one of those countries. In fact, river Nile would play a great role in sustainability of peace in that region of Africa for decades to come.
Riya Tingwa, Phoenix, AZ

There is a general sentiment that member states share the Nile water will definitely go to war in the near future if they don't want to talk about it now. This is very clear by the fact, in recent years Egypt has turned a blind eye to Sudan's civil war. It worries that after Southerners vote for secession when a peace is established in the Sudan, a resurgence of Nile water crises will occur.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA (Sudanese)

Privatisation will deliver water to the rich! There are worrying trends, for example in Ghana, the creation of water resource commission which has the mandate to issue water permits/rights to private concerns, this is a huge threat to farmers' livelihoods and is a potential conflict issue.
Al-hassan Adam, Accra, Ghana

If you like "free water", why not "free gasoline", or "free food" also? I suppose the old adage - "You get what you pay for" is appropriate at this juncture.
Neal J. Lang, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

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UN begins action decade on water
22 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature


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