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The Steering Committee of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) today elected Professor Anna Tibaijuka, Former Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, as its new Chair. WSSCC is an alliance of members from a range of sectors who are committed to improving the lives of poor people around the world by improving access to basic sanitation, good hygiene practices, and safe drinking water. Prof. Tibaijuka will succeed Dr Roberto Lenton, whose second and final term of office comes to an end in March 2011.
“We live in a world of unacceptable inequality,” said Prof. Tibaijuka. “Two thirds of the world’s population takes access to a toilet for granted. Yet a third of the people alive today – 2.6 billion individuals, most of them in Africa and South Asia – do not have access to basic sanitation, and 0.9 billion lack safe drinking water. I want to address this inequality.”
Prof. Tibaijuka grew up in rural Tanzania, and knows first-hand the impact of poor sanitation and hygiene on the health and economic well-being of a community. She has seen the benefits that small changes can make: installing a separate toilet in a school can improve girls’ attendance; providing soap and water for handwashing can reduce the spread of diarrhoea, the second leading cause of death among children under five years old; and ensuring clean drinking water can help reduce outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera.
Recent analyses of progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals have revealed that sanitation is by far the most off-track MDG in sub-Saharan Africa, and second globally, after nutrition. “We are delighted that Prof. Tibaijuka has accepted the challenge of leading WSSCC to address the neglected topics of sanitation and hygiene,” said outgoing Chair, Dr Roberto Lenton. “These issues need champions, and she has already proved herself to be a strong leader – respected in her home country, throughout Africa, and on the world stage.”
In her role as Chair of WSSCC, Prof. Tibaijuka plans to draw on her experience and network of contacts in politics, business, academia and within the UN system, to raise awareness about the need for concerted action. Under her leadership, WSSCC intends to continue its current growth, notably in the Global Sanitation Fund, a programme of WSSCC, which supports sanitation work in many of the world’s poorest countries.
In Tanzania, Prof. Tibaijuka is Member of Parliament, elect, for the Muleba South constituency and is running unopposed in the general election set for 31 October. She was an Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT between 2002 and 2010 and has served on a number of distinguished international panels, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa and the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. She was also co-winner of the 2009 Göteborg Award for Sustainable Development.
Prof. Tibaijuka holds a Doctorate of Science in Agricultural Economics from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and Honorary Doctorates from the University of McGill in Canada, University College London, Herriot Watt in Scotland and the Warsaw School of Economics. Prof. Tibaijuka was elected on the basis of the recommendations of a special Search Committee, which conducted an extensive international search process. She speaks English, Swahili, Haya, Swedish and some French.