African journalists have been called upon to share knowledge as reality about water and sanitation during a workshop organised by African Water Association-AFWA aimed at capacity building in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire on 18 February. Gilles Djagoun, the senior water program coordinator AFWA, stressed that more information and knowledge still need to be imparted to journalists through professional networks, symposiums, and trainings. He believes that AFWA should establish mentorship programs, record the impacts made, and develop plans to boost water plans. “I have no doubt that the gap of lack of access to clean water should be closed and its high time African leaders enforced policies to curb dirty water as this will lower the spread of water borne diseases. Which is why journalists need to continue with sensitisation,” he said. One-quarter of the world’s population – two billion people lack safe drinking water and half – 3.6 billion people lack safe sanitation. The damage to human capital is staggering. In 2019, diarrheal diseases were ranked the eight greatest cause of death in the world, claiming 1.5 million lives worldwide, mainly due to poor water and sanitation. The burden is particularly harsh on women and girls. For example, lack of personal hygiene facilities in schools leads to school absenteeism, with lifelong repercussions from learning losses, according to an article by the World Bank. ALSO READ: How access to clean water increased from 26.3 per cent in 1994 to 87.4 per cent AFWA leaders stressed the need for safe drinking water and highlighted the triggers of water pollution especially in lakes and rivers due to use of pesticides in fishing, which is illegal. Fishermen have left the lives of many people in danger. In order for everyone to have clean water, water treatment, filtration and disinfection to kill microbes were emphasised as positive mechanisms. AFWA encouraged drinking portable water as it presents no risks, however, chemicals like chlorine were warned to use in high measures, but rather maintained at five mil litres as they impose some dangers, noting that high chlorine levels could lower the pH level of the water, thus turning acidic. Journalists were also urged to report illegal water access and unqualified well constructions because they connect sewage to clean water, hence contaminating it. It was also communicated that governments ought to enforce laws where people can’t construct houses next to water sources since it easily pollutes it. Forming a journalist association “This is an opportunity for all the 20 journalists present in the workshop from Cameroon, Togo, Nigeria, Uganda, DRC, Rwanda, Kenya, and others to form an African association that will fight for access to drinking water. “We must identify water and sanitation challenges, and reach out to stakeholders for help,” said Ousmane Dambadji, the president of a Niger journalist water union. He is optimistic that journalists need to take water topics seriously more than education and health, because without water, everything poses. With the assistance of AFWA, and funding from governments, members of this network are expected to be committed to mobilise organisations in water to provide change. If journalists are not offered information necessary to ease their work, Dambadji noted that they must expose such offices because they are entitled to information and data that would help them spread awareness to the public of the current water situation. For him, journalists shouldn’t look at money, but at how they would change the lives of millions of people. “Commitment of journalists would result in successes, as we shall be working towards fulfilling a target.” Dambadji pointed out that reporting about water and sanitation requires passion and love for it, as it’s the two that enabled him start his journalist organistion in 2010 after noticing that one out of two Nigeriens didn’t have water while others defecated openly. Although in the start his network struggled, he stressed that now the government has come on board to support him after seeing his endless efforts and putting a smile on people’s faces. He heartened journalists to use the new network to push themselves to produce results because that’s how leaders from their countries will provide them with support.