Africa

After WASH report, burden of eradicating open defecation shifts to Africa

Around 196 million of the 494 million people practising open defecation in the world are from sub-Saharan Africa

 
By Shivangi Agarwal
Published: Tuesday 06 July 2021
Filled-up drop hole toilets in Passo village, Nigeria. Photo: Newsan
Filled-up drop hole toilets in Passo village, Nigeria. Photo: Newsan Filled-up drop hole toilets in Passo village, Nigeria. Photo: Newsan

The burden of eradicating the scourge of open defecation has shifted to sub-Saharan Africa from India after the recently published report by the WASH Institute showed that there had been a huge drop in open defecation in India.

Around 196 million of the 494 million people practising open defecation in the world are from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report released on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef July 1, 2021.

The recent JMP report also states that sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to safe sanitation. About a billion people in the region lack safely-managed sanitation. The report also states that half of the 771 million people still lacking even basic drinking water services in 2020 lived in sub-Saharan Africa. 

 

Figure: Population lacking basic sanitation in Sub Saharan Africa

Source: https://washdata.org/data/household#!/dashboard/new

Why Sub-Saharan Africa

The chart above shows that the majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to basic sanitation. According to Unicef, the use of improved facilities that are not shared with other households is ‘Basic Sanitation’.

There has been a reduction in open defecation to 18 per cent from 32 per cent in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. But this has been replaced majorly by unimproved and limited sanitation which increased to 50 per cent from 45 per cent.

According to the definition of the JMP report, the use of improved facilities that are shared with other households is ‘limited sanitation’. According to Unicef, these are again not safe sanitation practices. Communities usually tend to go back to open defecation if they adopt such unsafe sanitation practices.

The rural areas of these countries, where the most number of people reside, show the same pattern. Usage of improved sanitation facilities that are not shared with other households and where excreta is safely managed and treated offsite is ‘Safely Managed Sanitation’.

Open defecation in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 47 to 27 per cent. But unimproved and limited sanitation increased to replace it. Disposal of human faeces in fields, forests, etc or with solid waste is ‘Open Defecation’, according to the JMP 2021.

 

Figure: Population lacking basic sanitation in Sub Saharan Africa

Source: https://washdata.org/data/household#!/dashboard/new

A report released by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, titled Tanzania-State of Sanitation states that the majority of the population in Tanzania uses pit latrines without washable slabs in rural areas where 70 per cent of its population resides.

This unimproved sanitation practice in Tanzania not only leads to ground water contamination but also causes serious health problems. According to WHO and UNICEF, the use of pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines or bucket latrines is known as ‘Unimproved Sanitation’.

The Demographic Health Survey of Tanzania shows a prevalence of diarrhoea among children aged less than 6 years to those aged 6 months. The practice of unimproved sanitation also leads to economic losses of $7.1 million annually.


Figure: Population lacking basic sanitation in Sub Saharan Africa
Source: https://washdata.org/data/household#!/dashboard/new

Since early 2000, the country has been working on promoting safe sanitation and its recent development plans talk of improved sanitation. Tanzania has identified that there is a need to understand safe toilet technologies and options for management of faecal sludge both through capacity building and legal framework. Just like Tanzania, other countries need to put their act together to reach SDG 6.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.