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[LILONGWE] A network aiming to boost the quality and quantity of reporting on water issues in African countries was launched on 22 March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Africa Water Journalists Network brings together more than 1,000 journalists who will be able to share information and story ideas through a forum on the network's website.

Later this year the network will begin producing an Internet-based newsletter called the Water Chronicle. Through this, the network's organisers intend to provide contributing journalists with on-the-job training.

James Dorsey of the Wall Street Journal, a US newspaper, and Rupert Wright of the UK-based Sunday Times will act as editors.

Speaking at the network's launch, Dorsey said that without access to clean water and sanitation, a developing country could not progress.

"We all know … that it is uneconomic for children and women to wait for hours every day to fill up jugs of water, that up to 80 per cent of killer diseases are preventable," said Dorsey. "But how do people know how to prevent these diseases if nobody tells them?"

Dorsey told SciDev.Net that the network would act as a tool to hold governments and other institutions accountable.

According to the network's organisers, encouraging the African media to monitor implementation of water policies will help to strengthen political commitment and raise the profile of water and sanitation issues in the context of poverty reduction efforts, including progress towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

By raising awareness of water issues, the network aims to strengthen public demand for governments to address the challenges of clean water and access to basic sanitation.