The World Health Organisation has called on policymakers to accelerate progress on sanitation and to ensure that the connection between sanitation and groundwater is reflected in legislation and related guidelines at national and sub-national levels.
The WHO Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti stated this on the occasion of World Toilet Day celebration.
The World Toilet Day, celebrated annually on 19th November, tackles the global sanitation crisis and achieves Sustainable Development Goal 6: “Water and sanitation for all by 2030.”
This year’s theme, “Sanitation and groundwater,” focuses on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater.
She said the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on progress on drinking water and sanitation highlights the fact that only 29% of healthcare 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 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 creates 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 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”, the health body noted.
The World Health Organization also 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 realization 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”, she said.