Climate resilient solutions to protect and improve water, sanitation, and sustainable energy services top agenda at South Africa – China dialogue

UNICEF hosted dialogue with Governments of South Africa and China, children, youth, and other stakeholders, shared experiences and lessons learnt on how to protect essential services for children in an evolving environment.

13 June 2023
Mr Zhibing Ouyang, Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy, South Africa, delivers his opening remarks at the China – South Africa climate resilient rural sanitation, water and sustainable energy solutions dialogue.
UNICEF South Africa/2023
Mr Zhibing Ouyang, Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy, South Africa, delivers his opening remarks at the China – South Africa climate resilient rural sanitation, water and sustainable energy solutions dialogue.

PRETORIA 13 June 2023 – Progressive policies, investment, and innovation to protect water, sanitation and sustainable energy systems from climate shocks were cited as vital needs today at a UNICEF hosted dialogue with the Governments of South Africa and China.

Children and youth representatives from the two countries and Kenya, as well as partners across the private sector, academia and civil society joined the discussions in-person and online that focussed on climate resilient rural sanitation and sustainable energy solutions. The one-day session will be followed by a two-day visit to rural schools, healthcare facilities and households in North West province to gather insights from the situation on the ground.

“Children are already affected by the impact of climate related events on essential services, such as water and sanitation systems, which threatens their health and wellbeing,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF Representative to South Africa. “That’s why it’s so important to share experiences, ideas and lessons learnt across countries and continents, with children and youth at the heart of discussions,” added Muhigana.

The dialogue was informed by South Africa and China’s experiences in developing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) policies, financing models and in promoting technological innovations. Gaps and challenges were at the core of discussions, such as how best to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change through facility maintenance and ensuring access to services for more vulnerable populations, particularly in rural areas.

“We are committed to making sure that services are resilient, irrelevant of the shocks they may face, and provide a sustainable and decent service to children and communities,” said Mr Andre van der Walt, Chief Director, Sanitation Services Support at the Department of Water and Sanitation, South Africa. “Learning from examples, such as those from China and from communities themselves, is an important part of our work as it improves our knowledge and opens our minds to ideas that can also work in our context,” added Mr Walt.

Knowledge sharing and reciprocal learning, data monitoring, such as on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the use of innovative technologies and needs-based technical assistance were all cited as opportunities to strengthen collaboration among UNICEF, the Governments of South Africa and China and relevant partners. Community behaviours and social norms were also recognised as being key to informing WASH and sustainable energy solutions. 

UNICEF China presented on their work in utilizing low-carbon, water-saving, and environmentally friendly technologies to improve services in arid climates, examples that could be adapted to remote areas of South Africa.

“We are very pleased to be here in South Africa to share our learnings and experiences, including through working on policies and projects with UNICEF China,” said Mr Li Weiguo, Director-General, Department of Rural Social Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. “South Africa is a unique environment from which we can better understand needs on the ground and take lessons learnt back to China to further enhance collaboration between the two countries and address common challenges in this sector,” added Mr Weiguo.

Children and young people engaged in climate action from South Africa, China and Kenya led a youth panel where they shared their views and perspectives on the situation. “Young voices need to be heard and taken into account when developing climate resilient sustainable development solutions, including across rural and remote areas,” said 25-year-old Kwanele Godfrey Ngwenya from the Youth Programmes at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). “Children and young people have specific needs, such as ensuring that schools, healthcare facilities and community spaces are protected from climate related shocks,” added Ngwenya.

UNICEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and climate related work focuses on providing every child with access to safe and equitable water, sanitation, and hygiene services, and promotes and advocates for a safe and sustainable climate and environment for every child.

Media contacts

Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486
Sudeshan Reddy
Communication Specialist
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 82 561 3970


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