BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
|Team Lead Sue Alexander and Dr. Afia Zakiya, WAG Country Representative|
HSBC Holdings Plc, one of the world’s largest financial service organisations with over 6,900 branches in about 88 countries, has committed US$ 25 million to support Ghana and five other countries provide safe water and improved sanitation to 1.1 million and 1.9 million respectively, of their marginalised and poor people.
According to HSBC, Ghana will receive support of over US$ 3 million to enable the country provide safe water and improved sanitation to over 100,000 people.
The amount, which will be spread over five years, forms part of a total of US$ 100 million the bank has set aside to assist a host of countries where three partners - WaterAid, the Worldwide Wildlife Fund and Earthwatch Institute are operating, through its Water Programme.
Partnering the bank from Ghana to provide improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in five selected districts of the country, is WaterAid in Ghana, a non-governmental development organisation with more than 27 years of experience in providing WASH services in the country.
Ghana and Nigeria in Africa, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in Asia, are the WaterAid countries to benefit from the five-year facility from the HSBC Bank.
These came to light, during an interaction Thursday, November 15, 2012 in Accra, with a seven-member HSBC global team that was on a visit to Ghana from November 10, 2012 to November 17, 2012.
The visit was specifically to two of the selected districts (Birim North and Kwahu North in the Eastern Region), where WaterAid in Ghana with support from HSBC, is starting work to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.
The team also visited established WaterAid projects to see the difference that safe water, sanitation and hygiene have already made to individuals, communities and local economies.
Other districts to benefit from the HSBC facility, are Tamale in the Northern Region, Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region and Wa in the Upper West Region.
Explaining what informed selection of the five districts the facility will cover, Mr. Ibrahim Musah, Head of Policy and Partnerships (HOPP), WaterAid in Ghana (WAG), told the selected team of five journalists belonging to the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN), that they form part of 40 poorest districts identified in the country.
Commenting on the partnership with the HSBC Water Programme (HWP), he said “Working with the HSBC Water Programme over the next five years, we will bring safe water to over 120,000 people and sanitation to over 80,000 people,” which he disclosed is the largest singular support to be received from a partner in the history of WAG, and which will contribute 30% to the organisation’s user numbers.
“Together with HSBC and our local partners, communities will not only benefit from improved access to safe water and sanitation, they will also learn about hygiene and implementing and maintaining new infrastructure,” Ibrahim Musah stated, adding, “Access to sanitation, can help to restore dignity and, particularly for women, help to reduce discrimination and marginalisation.”
Answering a question on why HSBC chose to support WaterAid deliver safe water and sanitation services, Sue Alexander, HSBC’s Senior Manager of Environmental Programmes and leader of the team, for her part, recounted a statement made by a chief in one of the communities visited.
“‘He said to us, if you bring our community water you bring them life’, and I was very struck by that – this is going to be one of the communities that we will be supporting in Birim North, and to me that very succinctly sums up what the HSBC is thinking.”
“We believe that if you give people the basic necessities of life, that will then encourage them, and enable them to make the most to reach their full potential. So we would like to support the whole five-year programme with US$ 100 million. And it is all about supporting people throughout their lives and their livelihoods,” Sue Alexander said.
She further intimated that the decision to support the areas selected in Africa and Asia was arrived at, after deliberations with WaterAid International on the areas of the most need.
Apart from WaterAid, the HSBC Water Programme’s collaboration with the Earthwatch Institute and Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) will enable support to research projects on water in 20 cities and practices/policies that help protect five river basins.
|HSBC team with some WaterAid, UK and Ghana staff|
Thanking the HSBC global team for their support to WaterAid in Ghana’s country programme and the people of Ghana “who are suffering the most from WASH poverty,” Dr. Afia Zakiya, Country Representative, WAG, said “In spite [of] being a middle income country and the benevolence of countries, there is still great inequities in terms of access and provision to safe clean water and sanitation services.”
She told the visiting team that in terms of coverage, sanitation is only at 14%, while water is about 74%, stating, “Particularly in the North where the HSBC Programme will reach thousands of people, we have a very big problem with open defecation.”
Dr. Zakiya however submitted that the figures do not tell the inequalities in the region based on gender and other factors, which are key variables that WAG looks at, in the equity and inclusion principles that guide the nature of work that they do.
HSBC Holdings Plc currently serves around 60 million customers through its four global businesses: Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Commercial Banking, Global Banking and Markets, and Global Private Banking.
It is also listed on the London, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Bermuda stock exchanges, while its shares are held by over 221,000 shareholders in 134 countries and territories.