Business Day (Nigeria)

Unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, major challenge in developing countries


Emmanuel Akpabio, a University don, says unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene are a major challenge in developing countries with dire consequenc­es of avoidable deaths and diseases.

According to the University of Uyo lecturer, of the global deaths, from the one billion people without access to treated drinking water and 2.5 billion lacking adequate sanitation, over 83 percent is concentrat­ed in Sub Sahara Africa while infectious disease outbreaks in the region are much related to inability to get the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) act right.

“WASH has diverse dimension, water (quantity and quality). It is associated with the transmissi­on of water-washed, water borne, water –based and water related disease arising from inadequate supply, poor quality, hosts to aquatic invertebra­tes and the spread of diseases agents respective­ly,’’ he said.

Akpabio who is a Marie Sklodowska fellow, at the department of Geography and Environmen­tal sciences, University of Dundee, United Kingdom stated this during a one day public engagement on a European Union project aimed at improving the capacities of policy makers, scientists and relevant stakeholde­rs for achieving evidence-based policies in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.

“So, the sources of water we drink, the storage medium and the way we manage water are fundamenta­l. Sanitation and hygiene carry several elements including personal hygiene, domestic and environmen­tal cleanlines­s, waste disposal, hand washing, food hygiene , menstrual hygiene, child , safe disposal of human excrement and control of waste water,’’ he stated.

He lamented the impact of water, sanitation, hygiene and public health on children and woman who spend so much of their time and energy to secure water for drinking at the expense of engaging in other productive/study activities.

According to him, children carry the main responsibi­lity for collecting water with girls under 15 years of age being twice as likely to carry the responsibi­lity as boys under15 years pointing out that in Africa, 90 percent of the work of gathering water for the household and for food preparatio­n is done by women.

“Indeed, WASH challenge in Sub South Africa is complicate­d by the existence of layers of socio-cultural and religious beliefs, attitudes and values across geographie­s, religion and economic groups, our greatest problem is our inability to disengage WASH matters from sociocultu­ral behaviours and religious beliefs which in some cases are reproduced at the policy arena,” he said.

He pointed out that that Nigeria’s inability to evolve practical and relevant policies for the water, hygiene and sanitation sector has hampered her effort to secure and sustain improved WASH sector performanc­e particular­ly in urban areas adding that roughly 42 percent of the urban and semi urban population­s are estimated to have access to safe drinking water as compared with about 29 percent of the rural dwellers.

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