Experts advise Africa to scale up efforts on water and sanitation

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Experts have advised players in water and sanitation in African countries to up their game on access to clean water and sanitation services efforts in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on clean water and sanitation by 2030.

Currently, efforts are being made across the continent in dealing with water and sanitation challenges by both the Government and Non-Governmental organisations but the coverage so far per year needs to be scaled up to achieve universal access according to Sahr Kemoh, WASH Specialist and UNICEF’s Regional Lead for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Kemoh said while efforts are currently underway in dealing with water and sanitation challenges in Africa, the available data on clean water and access to sanitary facilities call for additional efforts to achieve SDG 6.

“For example in Eastern Africa, on access to clean water only 46% of the population have access to basic safe drinking water with 94 million people drinking water from unimproved sources and surface water while 63 million people cover long distances to get water from improved sources,” Kemoh said.

He added, “On access to sanitary facilities, only 20% have access to basic sanitation services with almost 140 million people in the region using unimproved facilities while 35 million uses shared improved facilities and about 57 million people in the region practicing open defecation.”

Kemoh went on further to say that with this data, in Eastern Africa in order to achieve SDG 6 by 2030, for universal access to basic drinking water, current annual efforts of 6.4 million people need to be doubled while for basic sanitation services, 2.6 million coverage need to be increased to 22 million which is an 8 fold increase and current open defecation elimination rate of 2.2 million people needs to be increased to 5.5 million people which is 2.5 times.

The state of sanitation is deteriorating in Sub-Saharan Africa with countries switching from open defecation to unsafe toilets and projections on open defecation indicate that by October 2019, the African continent is expected to surpass India.

Currently India is leading in open defecation across the globe with 6 of the 10 people practicing open defecation but the Indians have set an ambitious target of becoming an open defecation free state by 2019, the target which is currently showing positives and once achieved will change the landscape of open defecation.

With the change, African continent which currently constitute 4 of the 10 people practicing open defecation is expected to constitute 6 out of 10.

Population increase, urbanization and unplanned settlements in cities and towns are among the reasons that might lead Africa into having more people practicing open defecation according to Richard Mahapatra; Managing Editor for the New Delhi based Down To Earth Magazine.

“Africa is having the fastest urbanization which is also unplanned. Many people are migrating from rural areas to urban areas and when they do few settle where they have access to clean water and sanitary facilities,” Mahapatra said.

And the Deputy Governor for Busia County one of the OD free Counties in Kenya Moses Mulomi agrees with Kemoh on the need for increased efforts in dealing with water and sanitation challenges considering that the continent is already facing unbearable health costs of sanitation.

“About 40% of the diseases treated in African hospitals are diseases that can be prevented with access to clean water and good sanitation thereby saving millions of money. We are losing a lot of money which could have been channeled to other development initiatives due to poor sanitation,” Mulomi said.

Nigeria has the highest number of people defecating in the open in Africa and spend US$191 million treating water-borne diseases followed by Ghana on $54 million, Kenya $51 million, Mozambique $22 million, Uganda $21 million, Tanzania $19 million, The Democratic Republic of Congo $17 million and Malawi $12 million according to a WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme Report, 2017.

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