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Public Health/WTD 2022: WHO urges policymakers to reflect sanitation, groundwater in legislation

*Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organisation, on the occasion of 2022 World Toilet Day, calls in authorities to ensure a link between sanitation and groundwater towards attaining SDG 6

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In efforts at discouraging open defecation to safeguard public health in economies around the world, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has called on policymakers to accelerate progress on sanitation and to ensure that the connection between sanitation and groundwater is reflected in legislation and related guidelines at national and sub-national levels.

Dr. Moeti disclosed this in her message to commemorate World Toilet Day (WTD), celebrated annually November 19.

The WHO Director noted this effort would help countries in tackling the global sanitation crisis and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6: “Water and Sanitation for All by 2030″.

“This year’s theme, ‘Sanitation and groundwater’, focuses on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater.

“Access to safely managed sanitation services, in combination with safely managed drinking water services and good hygiene practices, is fundamental to ensuring public health,” said she.

Moeti also stated: “It leads to fulfilling the SDG 6 targets and is essential for the realisation of all other sustainable development goals.

Key statistics on global sanitation services

According to Moeti, “between 2000 and 2020, the population of Africa increased from 800 million to 1.3 billion.

“Some 290 million people gained access to at least basic sanitation services during that period.”

She said: “However, 779 million people still lack those basic services.

“Of these, 208 million still practice open defecation.

“The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on progress on drinking water and sanitation highlights the fact that only 29% of health care facilities in Africa have basic sanitation services.”

The WHO chief further noted: “According to the Joint Monitoring Programme 2020 data, 33% of households in Africa have basic sanitation services, with 21% using safely managed sanitation facilities.

“Two out of three people lack safely managed sanitation services.

“The same report shows that in Africa 27% of rural and 5% of urban populations still practice open defecation.”

She said: “We must work on average four times faster to ensure everyone has a safe toilet by 2030.

“The connection between sanitation and groundwater cannot be overlooked.

“In densely populated urban settings, pit latrines and septic tanks sited close to waterpoints that draw from shallow aquifers creates potentially serious health risks.”

Moeti as well stated: “This has a profound impact on public health and environmental integrity.

“For women and girls, in particular, toilets at home, school and at work help them fulfil their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy.

“The indignity, inconvenience, and danger of not having access to safely managed sanitation is a barrier to their full participation in society.”

She said: “Safely managed and properly sited sanitation protects humans and groundwater from faecal waste pathogens.

“A safe and sustainable sanitation system begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible, and dignified setting.”

Moeti added: “Toilets drive improvements in health, gender equality, education, economics, and the environment.

“The link between ground water and sanitation needs to be strengthened through inclusive policy and coordinated implementation.

“Thus, cooperation between policy makers, water resources, sanitation specialists and practitioners should be increased.

“As we celebrate World Toilet Day, let us make the ‘invisible visible’, knowing that groundwater is invisible, but with visible impact everywhere.”

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