The World Health Organization has appealed to regional governments to ensure that sanitation and groundwater are reflected in their legislation to take millions out of open defecation practices.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti disclosed this at the commemoration of the 2022 World Toilet Day celebration.

She said the increasing rate of Africa’s population has continued to pose threat to access to basic sanitation services, hence calling on the policymakers to beef-up commitment in order to accelerate progress on sanitation.

“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. Today as we celebrate World Toilet Day, let us make the “invisible visible”, knowing that groundwater is invisible but with visible impact everywhere.

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.”

Speaking on the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report for 2020 on the progress of drinking water and sanitation Dr. Moeti laments that “Only 29% of health care facilities in Africa have basic sanitation services, 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 link between groundwater and sanitation needs to be strengthened through inclusive policy and coordinated implementation. Thus, cooperation between policymakers, water resources, sanitation specialists, and practitioners should be increased.

“WHO Regional Office for Africa supported two key monitoring interventions this year:

  • Facilitating regional consultations for the 2022 WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on community and institutional access to sanitation services.
  • Conducting the GLAAS survey 2022 on delivery of drinking-water supply and sanitation services, and the status of hand hygiene activities, with a focus on governance, monitoring, finance, and human resources.

WHO Regional Office for Africa promoted the membership of African professionals in the WHO International Network of Drinking-water and Sanitation Regulators (REGNET). Twelve[1] of the 42 current members of the REGNET are from the African Region.  The network supports standard settings to ensure the safety of drinking water and the quality of sanitation services. The regional office has collaborated in the elaboration of hygiene and sanitation strategies of the SADC Region and is fostering coordination and partnership in supporting Member States to implement the World Health Assembly resolution 72.7 towards universal access to WASH services in health care facilities.”

As this year’s theme, “Sanitation and groundwater,” focused on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater, experts say In densely populated urban settings, pit latrines and septic tanks are sited close to water points, thus creating potentially serious health risks on public health and environmental integrity particularly on women and girls in the society.

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