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

Business Day (Nigeria) - - HEALTH BUSINESS & LIFE - ANIEFIOK UDONQUAK, Uyo

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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