Messrs WaterAid, a non-governmental organisation, NGO campaigning for improved water supply and sanitation, has lauded African leaders for resolving to eliminate inequalities and end open defecation in their countries by 2030.
The NGO in a statement signed by its communications Manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik also lauded the leaders for pledging to work towards giving every person access to safe sanitation and good hygiene. The pledges were made in Dakar, Senegal at the end of AfricaSan 4, a conference of African governments, civil society and development partners.
“Recognising that poor sanitation in Africa undermines the continent’s social and economic development and has serious health impacts on the population, including diarrhoea, African ministers responsible for sanitation and hygiene have committed to universal access by signing the Ngor Declaration on sanitation and hygiene.
Ngor – meaning ‘dignity’ in Wolof, the Senegalese national language – is an ambitious declaration highlighting the commitment of African countries to put the elimination of open defecation among their top priorities, and advance towards the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and basic sanitation by 2030.
The Ngor declaration also emphasises the importance of eliminating inequalities, which will require redoubled efforts to reach the poorest, those living in slums or remote rural areas and other marginalized groups. Sanitation is to be understood as a service, rather than simply infrastructure – including work to change behaviours as well as the safe management of faecal sludge, a pressing issue especially in informal urban settlements.
Reacting to the declaration, Head of West Africa for WaterAid, MS Mariame Dem said WaterAid is “glad to see this commitment from African leaders to re-evaluate priorities and fast-track progress on sanitation, to eliminate open defecation and bring better health and dignity to their citizens.
“These are ambitious commitments; with political will and financing, they are achievable. “Every man, woman and child in the world deserves the dignity of a safe, hygienic toilet. Yet nearly 650 million Sub-Saharan Africans are still without access to basic sanitation. We know that ambitious commitments alone are not enough. Leaders need to deliver on their promises.”
The timing of the Ngor declaration is critical. Poor sanitation in Africa undermines the continent’s social and economic development. It also carries serious health impacts. Diarrhoea kills 400,000 children in Sub-Saharan Africa each year and causes the loss of an estimated 1-2.5% of GDP annually from medical costs and reduced productivity.
While the proportion of people practising open defecation in Sub-Saharan Africa decreased by 11 percent between 1990 and 2012, the actual number of people forced to relieve themselves at roadsides and in fields has actually grown by 33 million, because of the continent’s rapid population growth.
WaterAid analysis suggests at current rates of progress, Sub-Saharan Africa will not meet even the original Millennium Development Goal on sanitation – to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation — for 150 years.
Abdulmalik also quoted the Representative of WaterAid in Nigeria, Dr. Michael Ojo as saying that “In Nigeria, the proportion of people practising open defecation between 1990 and 2012 has only decreased by one percent.
“This figure needs to change and progress must be accelerated if the country is to experience real development. Universal access means ensuring everyone everywhere has access to a safe, hygienic toilet at home, at school, in health centres and in other public places.