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We Need Your Support to Get Our Dignity Back

Yolande Coombes's picture

In 2007, when I started to work on rural sanitation in Tanzania,  I was intrigued to see the plethora of reports highlighting the ‘sanitation crisis’ in Africa. Of all the Millennium Development Goals, Africa was performing worst in meeting the sanitation target. This message was repeated during the International Year of Sanitation and through the eThekwini Declaration and Commitments in 2008, at AfricaSan3 in 2011, and in the WHO/Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme report on progress toward MDGs released last month. But progress is slow. It’s time for us to engage with other groups and sectors that are affected by inadequate sanitation – health, education, environment, and finance.It’s not that we don’t know the problems--we’ve identified them through rigorous studies, country diagnostics, and client requests. Our mantra is Capacity Building, Policy, Strategy, Monitoring and Evaluation, Institutional Arrangements, Financing…yet we remain off-track. And worse, we’re slipping back as Africa’s population increases.

Sanitation is intrinsically linked to poverty reduction.  It doesn’t take great analytical skills to work out that lack of sanitation affects the poor by an order of magnitude so great that it’s shameful. As Ban Ki-moon noted “Access to sanitation is deeply connected to virtually all the Millennium Development Goals, in particular those involving the environment, education, gender equality, the reduction of child mortality and poverty.” African countries lose more money per annum from the economic impacts of poor sanitation (see latest research) then it would cost to eliminate open defecation. Nigeria alone loses US$1 billion per year to the impacts from open defecation – yet eliminating the practice would require less than 6.5 million latrines to be built and used!

Those of us who work in sanitation and have somewhere private, clean, and safe to defecate should feel the shame of open defecation. We look to you, our partners and potential partners from other sectors, to innovate with us and move towards a more rapid scaling up of access to basic sanitation on this continent.

Image: Improved sanitation in rural Mozambique (c) Luis Macario


Submitted by Farooq Khan on
The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MOPHS) in Kenya started CLTS piloting and replication between 2008-10. By 2011 over 1100 villages are reported to have become ODF. In mid 2011 the minster of health launched the ODF Kenya by 2013 campaign. The ministry with the help of UNICEF and other partners have formulated a roadmap to achieve the campaign goals and a coordination and KM hub has been created having staff to look after coordination and KM while positions like PMER, media and sanitation marketing are being filled. Large scale capacity building is initiated as well. Around 50 % of the finances required for the roadmap are available and for the remaining discussions are on with GSF, BMGF through lions Club etc. As a consultant supporting UNCIEF and the ministry in this endeavor, and knowing the WSP top notch work on TSC/CLTS in south asia, I would wish that WSP in Kenya support this opportunity and get more closely involved as it is with other ministry initiatives such promotion of hand washing etc etc. Sincere regards

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