Statistics released this week by Urban and Rural Development Minister Peya Mushelenga - that 70 percent of informal settlement and rural area dwellers defecate in the open due to lack of toilet facilities in their areas – unsettled us.
The minister expressed concern, and correctly, that the situation is a ticking time bomb and a breeding ground for water and airborne diseases.
Open defecation causes cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhoea, worm infestation, reduced physical growth, impaired cognitive function and malnutrition.
Without being the devil’s advocate, we are afraid that the current persistence of hepatitis infections in the country could be very must attributed to this scenario.
In 2015, Unicef found that close to half of all Namibians practice open defecation, a rate that is one of the highest in Africa, just behind Somalia and South Sudan.
The main victims of consequences that come with open defecation are children. And this is sad because they are paying the price of our sluggish approach to sanitation as adults in leadership and decision-making.
According to Unicef. 17 percent of children under the age of five suffer from diarrhea. The danger with this is that repeated episodes of diarrhoea contribute to the country’s high levels of childhood stunting.
Sanitation sits at the center of human development, which essentially requires of governments, as per dictates of the United Nations and other humanitarian bodies, to ensure the well being of the people they serve.
Central to the human development approach is the concept of capabilities. Capabilities - what people can do and what they can become - are the equipment one has in order to pursue a life of value. Basic capabilities valued by virtually everyone include good health, access to knowledge, and a decent material standard of living.
Against that background, it thus goes without saying that 70 percent of Namibia’s informal settlement and rural area dwellers are deprived the capabilities for which good sanitation is a catalyst.
Conventional wisdom would dictate that sanitation is an issue of both health and human dignity.
As the say goes, after all, water is life and sanitation is dignity. By promoting sustainable sanitation, human dignity can be restored in many aspects of our people’s lives.
The provision of safe toilets increases health and safety especially for women and girls and cuts back on time spent walking to sanitary installations. More and more safely constructed toilets can enable people to leave the vicious cycle of diseases and poverty.
But with all the talks that we are making headways insofar as the provision of necessary sanitation facilities to the masses, these stats paint a picture of a nation lagging massively in this respect.
We thus have to come up with deliberate interventions to arrest this situation, lest we become the South Sudans and Somalias of this world.
New Era Reporter
2019-07-05 09:39:01 | 10 months ago