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.