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Investment in hygiene promotion essential for human dignity

2018-08-13  Staff Reporter

Investment in hygiene promotion essential for human dignity

WINDHOEK - There is urgent need to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) services in Southern Africa, as far too many people continue to live without access to these basic facilities.

Better financing, coordination, leadership and monitoring of hygiene promotion policies by governments across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region must be put in place to ensure better hygiene practices, improve access to clean water and decent sanitation in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, Oxfam, WaterAid and World Vision have said.

“There is a huge gap in the area of sanitation and hygiene. Unless governments, communities and civil societies adopt innovative strategies to stimulate and create demand for sanitation, hygiene, and behaviour change, achieving sustainable development in Africa will be impossible,” said Dr Emmanuel Opong, World Vision’s Southern Africa Regional Director for WaSH and Capacity Building.
WaterAid’s recently released State of Hygiene in Southern Africa report argues that poor hygiene is a major contributor to several hygiene-related diseases in the Southern Africa region. Most prominently are the endemic cholera outbreaks in five countries in the region including Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as outbreaks of typhoid, Hepatitis E, and more recently Listeriosis.

According to the report, less than half of the rural population in Southern Africa has access to a decent toilet, as recorded by the Joint Monitoring Programme. This exposes the poorest and most vulnerable communities to diseases and trapping them in a cycle of poverty.

WaterAid Southern Africa Regional Director, Robert L.J Kampala said: “Across the Southern African region, too many people continue to live without access to clean water and decent sanitation. However, progress towards improving access to these basic facilities must also be complemented with a step-change in our attitudes towards the promotion of better hygiene practices.”

Meanwhile, a 2017 evaluation by World Vision in partnership with the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, carried out in 14 countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe revealed that a lot more still needs to be done in WaSH in households, communities, health care facilities and schools in World Vision program areas, which are mostly rural.

While there was general improvement in WaSH in those areas, key findings included insufficient sanitation facilities, and inadequate hygiene and waste management in health care facilities. Very few households sampled had hygiene services and use of basic sanitation services was overall low. In some countries less that 10 percent of households in both World Vision areas and those areas where comparative data was collected used a basic hygiene service.

The evaluation highlighted that improved investment in infrastructure and supplies is essential to address these issues.

The WaterAid report highlights that good hygiene practices are essential in preventing the spread of potentially deadly waterborne diseases and without them, the benefits of other poverty reduction strategies will be undermined and human dignity compromised.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation estimates that a newborn in low- and middle-income countries dies every minute from infections related to lack of clean water and an unclean environment. Providing water, adequate toilets and hygiene in homes and health centres would help support these newborns to survive and thrive.

2018-08-13  Staff Reporter

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