Remarkable achievements have been attained in our bucket eradication programme. Although not all the buckets have been removed by the end of last year, we came very close and should see those that do remain removed in the next few weeks. Speaking in Durban at the second AfricaSan conference on Sanitation and Hygiene on Monday, where representatives from more than 40 African countries gathered, the minister highlighted that where many challenges in dealing with the sanitation needs of the people of South Africa. In February 2005, government made a commitment to eradicate the bucket sanitation system which was being used by 252 254 households in formal established areas. Municipalities across South Africa managed to replace 81 percent of the buckets by December 2007 with toilets and Ventilate Latrines (VIP). The remaining 19 percent, or 49 010 toilets, are at an advanced stage of construction and will be completed shortly, she said. This followed efforts involving partnerships with key stakeholders and a R1.8 billion allocation through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant.
In rolling out the programme, Ms Hendricks said her department had been confronted with new challenges especially in newly created informal settlements. These, she said, included the additional burden placed on waste water treatment plants, the increased demand for water-borne sanitation, continuous moving target due to growth of new informal settlements and Ventilated Latrine toilets filling up. Unsuitable ground conditions, a lack of bulk water supply and material supply shortages have also caused delays in some instances. Minister Hendricks also attributed the setbacks in eradication to the lack of capacity at municipal level. A lack of sanitation does not only negatively impact on health, but also hampers development, said the minister. It has become clear that not having access to basic services such as sanitation holds back development and has health, economic, education and social implications, she said, adding that by providing toilets government was creating a better life for people living in these areas.
The focus of the conference was to look at the progress achieved by Africa in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. It also aims to gain a better understanding of the challenges government faces in delivering of safe sanitation to Africa, and come up with practical plans to improve the situation. Countries will learn from the successes of those who have pioneered new approaches, technologies, and methodologies in improving sanitation. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation, where attention will be drawn to the plight of over 40 percent of the world's population living without proper sanitation. During the course of the year, regional conferences on sanitation will be held to share practices and bolster progress, as well as encourage public-private partnerships to raise awareness on the importance of the issue. Sanitation and Hygiene Week, will be held from 15 to 21 March, and World Water Day is held on 22 March. According to United Nations Children's Fund improving sanitation for an estimated 2.6 billion people, including 980 million children is one of the single biggest development challenges the world faces today.