The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that 779 million people in Africa still lacked basic sanitation services and of these, 208 million still practice open defecation.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti disclosed this in her message commemorating the 2022 World Toilet Day.

Moeti in her message titled, “Reflect sanitation and groundwater in legislation” explained that, World Toilet Day, celebrated annually on 19 November, tackles the global sanitation crisis and achieves Sustainable Development Goal 6: “Water and sanitation for all by 2030.”

She said, this year’s theme, “Sanitation and groundwater,” focuses on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater. Revealing disturbing statistics with regards to the crisis, the Health Boss urged that more effort be put to ensure everyone had a safe toilet by 2030, because the connection between sanitation and groundwater could not be overlooked:

“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% of health care facilities in Africa have basic sanitation services.

“According to the Joint Monitoring Programme 2020 data, 33% of households in Africa have basic sanitation services, with 21% using safely managed sanitation facilities. Two out of three people lack safely managed sanitation services. The same report shows that in Africa 27% of rural and 5% of urban populations still practice open defaecation.

“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”, she said.

Furthermore, Moeti informed that, 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, she said had a profound impact on public health and environmental integrity.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa also stated that, 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.

She added that, the indignity, inconvenience, and danger of not having access to safely managed sanitation was a barrier to their full participation in society.

Therefore, “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 ground water and sanitation needs to be strengthened through inclusive policy and coordinated implementation. Thus, cooperation between policy makers, water resource, sanitation specialists and practitioners should be increased”, Moeti stated.

Highlighting some of WHO Africa efforts
in improving sanitation services on the continent, the Regional Director said:

“Through its normative role, WHO Regional Office for Africa supported two key monitoring interventions this year:
Facilitating regional consultations for the 2022 WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on community and institutional access to sanitation services.

“Conducting the GLAAS survey 2022 on delivery of drinking-water supply and sanitation services, and the status of hand hygiene activities, with a focus on governance, monitoring, finance and human resources.

“WHO Regional Office for Africa promoted the membership of African professionals in the WHO International Network of Drinking-water and Sanitation Regulators (REGNET). Twelve of the 42 current members of the REGNET are from the African Region. The network supports standard setting to ensure the safety of drinking water and quality of sanitation services.

“The regional office has collaborated in the elaboration of hygiene and sanitation strategies of the SADC Region and is fostering coordination and partnership in supporting Member States to implement the World Health Assembly resolution 72.7 towards universal access to WASH services in health care facilities”.

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