Despite having achieved the Millennium Development Goal targets in drinking water, Namibia is struggling to cope with its sanitation problems
Namibia is ranked among the countries with low sanitation coverage, with over 50 per cent of the country having no access to proper sanitation services especially when it comes to the provision of clean drinking water and sewerage disposal. The intense drought faced by arid southern Africa during the 2015/2016 agricultural season, followed by floods in the northern part of Namibia, worsened sanitation in many communities, especially in rural areas. The situation is equally challenging with regard to school-based hygiene and sanitation, with over a quarter of schools (27 per cent) not confident of the safety of their water supply.
Due to the absence of sanitation facilities, people have resorted to open defecation practice, which in turn has an impact on their health. Diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia resulting from poor sanitation and open defecation are the leading causes of childhood morbidity and mortality in Namibia, state data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services. It is in this regard that Unicef has joined forces to support the Namibian government with the provision of water and sanitation to communities. Information and knowledge on how to reduce contamination during water transportation, storage, treatment, and safe handling of the water are thus vital to ensure the water supplied to families remains safe.
50,000 pit latrines by 2020
Sanitation has been a topical issue in Namibia, to the point that President Hage Geingob has placed it in his Harambee Prosperity Plan, where he hopes to have 50,000 pit latrines constructed in rural Namibia.
Recently at the handover of an N$250,000 cheque by Sanlam Namibia in a bid to eradicate the bucket toilet system, rural and urban development minister Sophia Shaningwa pointed out that water and sanitation are human rights which should be accorded to all Namibians.
Namibian President Hage Geingob has targeted to build 50,000 pit latrines as part of the Harambee Prosperity Plan until 2020.
Scarcity of water
In Namibia water is a scarce resource. In some parts, the water must be taken from over 110 m of depth. This can only be done with an enormous energy input and has as consequence an increasingly falling groundwater level.
Although, water quality in Namibia has greatly improved since the 1990s. Despite improvements, water quality in Namibia is still lacking in rural areas. This is partly due to the difficulty of upkeep and system installation in communities with limited resources.
UNICEF in action
Ending open defecation is essential for human development. It can decrease visits to health facilities, child deaths and missed school days. This is why UNICEF and its partners aim to reduce open defecation in Namibia by 25 per cent by 2018.
The use of bucket toilets in Namibia will be a thing of the past by the end of 2017, Namibian Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa said last year.
The year 2017 is the year government has set as the deadline to double the number of Namibian households with access to sanitation. Statistically, the quest is to improve sanitation from the current 34 per cent to 70 per cent of the pupation, by year-end.
The regional council last year undertook to construct pit latrines in the entire 11 constituencies. Yet, due to budget constraints, the regional council only managed to build 17 toilets each, at all 11 constituencies. The 11 constituencies have 179,100 people and 37,400 households. Nevertheless, the government is doing all it can to achieve its objective to improve access to sanitation.
According to the Namibia Sanitation and Hygiene Program, nearly 1.3 million of Namibia’s population of just over 2 million does not have access to proper toilet facilities, including 84 per cent of all people living in rural areas. Diarrhoea is the second highest cause of paediatric admissions in Namibia and is responsible for more than 30 per cent of deaths in children under the age of five. It has also been noted that open defecation has consequent negative effects on the public and particularly children’s health.
The challenge for many constituencies, regional councils, and municipalities is the construction of toilet facilities and proper sewerage systems. Notably many municipalities are trying to bring such services closer to the people by building public toilets.
UNICEF, Namibia Sanitation and Hygiene Program data, Namibia sanitation report, New Era
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