The link between sanitation and climate change

Harare – The day has been commemorated since 2001 but in 2013 the United Nations officially declared October 19 as World Toilet Day following a resolution tabled by Singapore to the General Assembly. 

The Day was originally established by the World Toilet Organisation in 2001 but is now co-ordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and other partners.

It was set aside to recognise the life-saving importance of toilets and sanitation, and raise awareness about the fact that one in three people (2,4 billion) around the world have no safe and sanitary place to go when nature calls.

Instead, many people have no choice but to face the indignity of relieving themselves in the open, where they are exposed to disease, vulnerable to harassment or attack and may contaminate drinking water sources.

According to the UN, World Toilet Day It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 of having water and sanitation for all by 2030.

This year the theme was « Sustainable sanitation and climate change”.

What’s the link between sanitation and climate change?

According to the UN website climate change is accelerating with increased risks of floods, droughts, and rising sea levels thereby threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants.

“Floodwater can contaminate wells used for drinking water or flooding might damage toilets and spread human waste into communities and food crops, causing deadly and chronic diseases,” reads a statement on the UN website to commemorate the Day.

The Situation in Southern Africa.

A study in 2018 by the Southern Africa regional office of international NGO, WaterAid most Southern Africa nations especially in rural areas lacked access to sanitation.

“With the exception of South Africa (69 percent) and Swaziland (58 percent), less than half of rural populations in Southern Africa countries have access to at least basic sanitation. 

“In Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe the proportion of rural people that practise open defecation is higher than the proportion that have access to a basic latrine,” reads part of the findings.

The study also found out that access to sanitation is higher in urban areas of Southern Africa, where between 16 percent and 77 percent of the population have access to at least basic sanitation. 

Another study in 2015 also found out that most countries in the region faced challenges in disposal of child faeces due to a number of reasons that include a lack of evidence on what works in child faeces management; children not being able to use existing latrines due to physical or safety reasons; and gaps in the enabling environment.

A 2018-2019 UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water survey found that there was limited budget allocation for hygiene across the region.

“The survey gathered information on the existence and level of implementation of a government defined financing plan or budget for water, sanitation, and hygiene. Of the Southern Africa countries, only Botswana was rated as having an agreed and consistently followed financing plan for hygiene,” reads part of the report.

Are there success stories?

While resources have constrained provision of adequate sanitation in the region, various Governments have, with the assistance of development partners initiated projects to improve hygiene especially in rural communities.

In Zimbabwe, UNICEF is supporting the government to implement a Rural WASH Programme (RWP) entitled “Support to Improve Water and Sanitation in Rural areas – Zimbabwe”, with support from the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) through its Department for International Development (DfID).

The overall goal of this RWP is to contribute to reduced burden of diarrhoeal diseases, and improve productivity for over 4 million people, including men, women, children and the vulnerable in 42 rural districts in all 8 rural provinces of Zimbabwe.

According to a 2019 Joint Monitoring Programme report, rates of open defecation in Zambia fell from 24 percent to 19 percent between 2000 and 2017, but one in three rural households still practise open defecation.

Source : The Southern Times

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