Lack of toi­let re­ally af­fects dig­nity of poor com­mu­ni­ties

Sowetan - - Opinion - Hosea Sit­hole ■

The chal­lenge of lack of water and proper toi­lets that is ex­pe­ri­enced by many com­mu­ni­ties in SA and es­pe­cially the poor, is one of the key ar­eas of need that re­quire in­vest­ment to ob­vi­ate the bur­den of dis­eases and to im­prove the lives of those who bear the brunt of lifethreat­en­ing ill­nesses.

It should be con­ceded that the lack of water and proper san­i­ta­tion ameni­ties is a prob­lem that be­sets mainly com­mu­ni­ties on the pe­riph­ery of the econ­omy; those that on a daily ba­sis face an un­en­vi­able choice of us­ing their mea­gre re­sources ei­ther to put some­thing to eat on the ta­ble or to build them­selves de­cent toi­let fa­cil­i­ties. This is one of the many re­al­i­ties that these com­mu­ni­ties have to con­front each day. There­fore, there is a need for the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goal (SDG) 6, the aim of which is to en­sure the avail­abil­ity and sus­tain­able man­age­ment of water and san­i­ta­tion, which per­me­ates all sec­tors of so­ci­ety. Busi­ness and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions should carve out for them­selves a part in tack­ling is­sues that af­fect com­mu­ni­ties and ham­per their so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. The fi­nanc­ing of water and san­i­ta­tion in­fra­struc­ture still comes pre­dom­i­nantly from pub­lic sources. How­ever, this is in­ad­e­quate and thus re­quires a pack­age of fi­nanc­ing from dif­fer­ent sources, in­clud­ing from the pri­vate sec­tor. While we can­not take away the im­por­tance of gov­ern­ment, the role of the pri­vate sec­tor needs to be in­ten­si­fied as pub­lic fi­nances be­come more strained as other com­pet­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­crease, plac­ing a bur­den on many in­fra­struc­ture projects.

With the cor­rect frame­work con­di­tions, in­clud­ing good gov­er­nance and a strong en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in water and san­i­ta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, the pri­vate sec­tor will pro­vide more fund­ing in the fu­ture. In this re­gard, ev­ery­one should put fo­cus on cham­pi­oning the goal of SDG 6 to en­sure it is con­cretely re­alised. Thus, the SDG 6 must be el­e­vated to a point where all part­ners can work to­gether to de­vise ways to im­ple­ment it. De­spite be­ing con­strained by lim­ited re­sources, the de­part­ment of water and san­i­ta­tion has made rea­son­ably sig­nif­i­cant strides to pro­gres­sively re­alise that the rights to ac­cess to water and san­i­ta­tion be­comes a re­al­ity. To this end, since the dawn of the demo­cratic or­der, the de­part­ment has im­proved water and san­i­ta­tion ser­vices, putting up the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture for peo­ple to lead healthy lives. Thus, the an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of World Toi­let Day on Novem­ber 19 and through­out the month raises the im­por­tance of ac­cess to toi­let fa­cil­i­ties as one of our core rights that are en­shrined in the con­sti­tu­tion. The role of this im­por­tant amenity has been triv­i­alised to an ex­tent that it oc­cu­pies a po­si­tion of least im­por­tance. The shock re­ac­tion on the part of the pub­lic at the men­tion of World Toi­let Day is an indi­ca­tion of how in­con­se­quen­tial we think this fa­cil­ity.

Hav­ing ac­cess to a toi­let could eas­ily en­gen­der a sense that those who still do not en­joy this right and hence make a noise about it are an ir­ri­ta­tion. But the re­al­ity is that those in need of it are se­ri­ously af­fected by its lack and their lives are a daily strug­gle.

Sit­hole is a com­mu­ni­ca­tor at the de­part­ment of water and san­i­ta­tion (Gaut­eng re­gion)

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