South Africa has almost met the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people who do not have proper sanitation, but there are still challenges to overcome, says Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks.
500 million people could still be without adequate sanitation by 2015
UNICEF report says progress made, but more needed to prevent the deaths of more than 1.5 million children under five each year
Women, water and basic hygiene are the key to creating lasting change in Africa, but national water and sanitation plans are still leaving women out, leaders in development said today.
The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho has one of the most sustainable and innovative approaches to sanitation in the Southern African African Development Community (SADC).
Africa's urban poor, often struggling to eke out a living in unplanned and expanding shanty communities, are at the back of the queue for water and sewerage services from underfunded local authorities. But, as recent serious outbreaks of cholera in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe have demonstrated, the lack of access to safe water and proper sanitation are critical public health issues. Only 62 percent of Africans have access to improved water supplies, and just 60 percent have proper sanitation facilities. Unsurprisingly, malaria and diarrhoea - diseases linked to poor sanitation - are among the principal killers of children aged under five in Africa, while cholera, a highly contagious water-borne bacterial disease, is endemic in a number of countries. Even in those cases where governments attempt to assist the urban poor, their activities are hampered by lack of capital, poor statistics, and, most importantly, inadequate understanding of the needs, perceptions, and coping strategies of these communities. This has been exacerbated by the lack of meaningful links between the poor residents and the sanitation agencies, and has resulted in services provided not meeting the needs of the urban poor, according to a study by the Harare-based Institute of Water and Sanitation Development (IWSD). The IWSD report looked at the needs of poor communities in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It found that, with a few exceptions, residents in the informal settlements surveyed used unimproved pit latrines as toilets. Most were in poor condition and respondents complained of bad smells and overflows. Pit emptying facilities were non-existent, the report said, requiring new construction in very crowded conditions. The report concluded: The major cause of poor sanitation in informal settlements in the three countries is the lack of strong, transparent and effective linkages between sanitation agencies and the urban poor. The institutional and financial arrangements, and the approaches adopted, do not suit the sociocultural context, nor the needs and priorities of the urban poor. As a result, services do not meet the expectations of the urban poor, or are not provided at all. Across the Southern Africa region, cholera has claimed hundreds of lives in the last few months. ZAMBIA - POVERTY AND DISEASE Last week the Zambian authorities temporarily closed Soweto market, the largest open-air market in the capital, Lusaka, after the cholera death toll climbed to 100. Fresh food was sold in Soweto's highly unsanitary conditions, where storm drains were blocked with garbage, and public toilets overflowing. The government locked out the 2,500 traders - despite a howl of protest - to allow the market to be cleaned. MOZAMBIQUE - CHOLERA CASES CLOSE TO 5,000 In Mozambique last year there was a cumulative total of around 3,500 cholera cases. In the latest outbreak, which began just before Christmas, the number of cases has already reached 4,700. Cholera has affected Maputo City and five of the country's 10 provinces - Maputo, Gaza, Sofala, Zambezia and Nampula. Officially 26 people had died by 26 January. The Ministry of Health, UN organisations and NGOs have been working together for years in an attempt to prevent cholera outbreaks, and to encourage communities to adopt safe hygiene practices. [For more details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=39388 ] WHO SHOULD PAY? Broke local authorities are expected not only to maintain a water and sanitation system - fixing leaking pipes, buying expensive purification chemicals - but also to extend that service to a growing urban population that is also struggling to make ends meet. In South Africa, a cost-recovery approach means that municipalities subsidise water to the poorest in the community, providing 6,000 litres per month free, and a stepped tariff that compels wealthier consumers to pay more. However, Johannesburg Water - a public company operating under privatised management - has come in for a great deal of criticism for reportedly cutting off poor households who persist in not paying their bills. [For more details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=20014 ] Brian Boshof, a development planner at Witwatersrand University, said that sustainability of [water resources] means ecological, economic and social trade-offs, in which cost-recovery policies play a part. It's a very complicated argument, infused with politics, he commented. (Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks on www.allafrica.com, February 10, 2004 ) To view the IWSD report: http://www.iwsd.co.zw [pdf].
Health Systems Trust
Improving to basic facilities such as water, sanitation and housing is a key aspect of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). Although most local authorities can identify the most undeserves areas, estimates of the extent of the need are likely to provide the most effective motivation for targeting investment and planning interventions. To this end, a survey of access to basic facilities, including housing, water supply and sanitation, was carried out by the Health Department of the Cape Metropolitan Council (CMC) for the Greater Cape Town area, excluding the city centre and other areas not serviced by the CMC, between 1994 and 1995. Population estimates for the greater metropolitan area were also obtained.
Environmental Affairs and Tourism minister Valli Moosa has commended the University of Natal's efforts to bring occupational and environmental health issues under the spotlight. The minister was speaking in Durban yesterday at the official launch of the new occupational and environmental health facility at the institution's Nelson R. Mandela Medical School. In partnership with government and the private sector, the centre aims to increase capacity in occupational health through education and training programmes. Issues to be addressed by the centre's researchers include waterborne diseases, waste (biomedical, hazardous, solid, liquid), sanitation and airborne and respiratory diseases. Delivering the keynote address at the launch, Mr Moosa said education and research in universities were essential for improving the consciousness of people on environmental health issues.He added that many developing countries were still faced with a problem where workers were often illiterate and untrained in the proper use and disposal of toxic chemicals and pollutants. Global industrialisation and world trade in chemicals has grown faster than the flow of information and awareness about associated health and environmental risks. To deal with this problem, the minister mentioned that his department was working together with the health department on a pollution and waste management strategy.Furthermore, the Draft Air Quality Bill, which was currently being developed by his department, would make provision for stricter emission standards for incinerators.(Source: BUANews, 11 March 2003).
The Health Professions Council of South Africa is drafting a protocol on the disposal of medical waste for its registered members, the council said on 29/8.
The recent discovery of tons of medical waste, packed floor to ceiling in a suburban west Johannesburg house, has drawn attention to the problems experienced in the disposal of this material.