Water taps, toilets needed in SADC to curb water-borne diseases

by Lahja Nashuuta, originally posted on April 21, 2016



While in some parts of the world people with access to clean potable water take it for granted, the majority in southern Africa does not share the same luxuries.

In countries such as Namibia, people not only in rural areas but also from impoverished parts of the cities walk long distances to fetch water mainly for drinking and cooking, with a small portion used for bathing and laundry.

Normally, the lack of clean drinking water gives rise to unhygienic living conditions. When people have to trek about 20 km or more every day to collect water, personal hygiene takes a backseat.

In such a situation, people do not bother to take a bath regularly, or wash their clothing and bedding because water is reserved for cooking and washing utensils, and since proper sanitation facilities are also non-existent, people are at risk of communicable diseases.

Namibia has one of the lowest sanitation coverage rates in Eastern and Southern Africa, with only about 33 percent of the population having access to improved sanitation, according to UNICEF. While only 14 percent of the rural population has improved sanitation access.

Although Namibia has excelled in water provision, of up to 90 percent of the population, there are still people experiencing water stress, and people in informal settlements in metropolis like Windhoek are living under unhygienic conditions due to lack of water and proper sanitation.

Many people in informal settlements engage in various types of enterprises, some are selling food, fruits and vegetables in unhygienic conditions. This is a ticking time bomb Namibia because these are the perfect breeding grounds for communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria, trachoma, typhoid and even cholera.

Nearly 20 million people worldwide are said to die each year of waterborne diseases. Approximately half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to potable water, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.

According to UN, diarrhoea kills 4 000 children every day around the world. In Africa, it is the leading killer of children under five years old, causing more deaths than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Although the world water crisis is a multifaceted issue, the issue needs to be addressed in order to curb waterborne diseases.  Personally, I believe the only solutions to this problem are providing clean drinking water, hygienic toilets and encouraging effective hand washing, especially to people who live in rural areas as well as women and girls.

One way we will do this is to improve the water supply network by making sure that there are enough water pipes to supply water to all villages.

There is a need to build more toilets and sewage systems and inform people of the benefits of good hygienic practices, to stop them getting sick and dying from preventable diseases.

Apart from providing more taps and toilets, we must also promote good hygiene. Hand-washing with soap should also be encouraged at key points of the day – before food preparation and after using the toilet in order halve the likelihood of w, reduce acute respiratory infections by up to a quarter, and combat worm infestations, trachoma and infectious skin diseases.

Of course, Namibia is trying to address this problem.  Town councils and villages have made efforts to address lack of sanitation facilities.

The issue is also expected to be addressed during the implementation of newly introduced government plan known as the Harambee Prosperity Plan whereby 50 000 rural toilets are expected to be constructed and the bucket system eliminated by 2017. However, the question of water availability to flush those toilets still remains.

Until then . . .


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