November 27, 2022

Lara Adejoro

The World Health Organisation Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, has said that 779 million people in Africa lack basic sanitation services.

Dr. Moeti revealed this in a press statement in commemoration of the 2022 World Toilet Day with the theme ‘Sanitation and groundwater,’ with a focus on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater.

The WTD is celebrated on November 19, annually.

She said, “Access to safely managed sanitation services, in combination with safely managed drinking water services and good hygiene practices, is fundamental to ensuring public health. It leads to fulfilling the SDG 6 targets and is essential for the realisation of all other sustainable development goals.

“Between 2000 and 2020, the population of Africa increased from 800 million to 1.3 billion. Some 290 million people gained access to at least basic sanitation services during that period.

“However, 779 million people still lack those basic services. Of these, 208 million still practice open defecation.

“The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on progress on drinking water and sanitation highlights the fact that only 29 per cent of health care facilities in Africa have basic sanitation services.

“According to the Joint Monitoring Programme 2020 data, 33 per cent of households in Africa have basic sanitation services, with 21 per cent using safely managed sanitation facilities. Two out of three people lack safely managed sanitation services.”

The Director added that the same report shows that in Africa 27 per cent of rural and five per cent of urban populations still practice open defecation.

“We must work on average four times faster to ensure everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. The connection between sanitation and groundwater cannot be overlooked.

“In densely populated urban settings, pit latrines and septic tanks sited close to waterpoints that draw from shallow aquifers create potentially serious health risks. This has a profound impact on public health and environmental integrity. For women and girls, in particular, toilets at home, school, and at work help them fulfil their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy.

“The indignity, inconvenience, and danger of not having access to safely managed sanitation is a barrier to their full participation in society.

Safely managed and properly sited sanitation protects humans and groundwater from faecal waste pathogens. A safe and sustainable sanitation system begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible, and dignified setting.

“Toilets drive improvements in health, gender equality, education, economics, and the environment.

“The link between groundwater and sanitation needs to be strengthened through inclusive policy and coordinated implementation. Thus, cooperation between policymakers, water resource, sanitation specialists and practitioners should be increased,” she said.

She noted that through its normative role, the WHO Regional Office for Africa, in 2022, has supported key monitoring interventions on access to sanitation services.

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