Monday 1 March 2021
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SADC’s stinky sanitation record

Southern Africa is currently battling night and day to fight deadly diseases such as Hepatitis, Cholera and Listera, all brought about by the lack of proper sanitation.
SADC’s incipient governments have paid little attention when it comes to the provision of sanitation, in fact, it has always been an afterthought.
Waste management, pollution, inadequate access to sanitation services and poor urban conditions are identified as some of the major challenges to development in the SADC region. Although SADC has designated a specific regulatory body, the SADC Water Division, to oversee policies on water resources and sanitation infrastructure in the region and ensure their timely implementation, it has yielded minimal results.

The outbreak of the tripartite diseases currently wreaking havoc in South Africa, Namibia and Zambia is not an isolated event, it has been coming all along.
The mushrooming of informal settlements coupled with the lack of basic services in such setups already rang the alarm bells.
In Windhoek’s Havana Informal Settlement, 200 people share a single toilet. This is shameful and degrading to the dignity of any human being.
And while lawmakers are biting their nails off on whether to or not to provide condoms to prisoners, which will cost millions, teenage girls in Havana are alleged to be using old clothes and toilet paper during their menstrual cycles, many have depended on good Samaritans for assistance. The debate on whether to provide free sanitary pads to school girls has not received as much prominence as that of providing condoms to inmates.

In 2014, the local media reported that Namibia is lagging behind in sanitation provision with statistics indicating that about 76.7 percent of the rural population still uses the bush while approximately 13.5 percent of the urban population practices open defecation.
Statistics further revealed that one out of five schools do not have access to toilets and that 298 schools do not have sanitation facilities, with 94 percent of schools without toilets concentrated in the flood-prone regions of Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Kavango West and East as well as Zambezi.

The problem of poor access to sanitation is particularly acute in rural areas, where only 17 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities with an alarming rate as high as 46.5 per cent of open defecation. Also equally affected are the informal settlements.
The toilet sagas of the past, such as the Omusati one is a clear indication that sanitation has never received priority from government, not to mention adequate budget allocation annually.
I agree with Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani who this week said “government’s failure to provide proper sanitation facilities is a an epic failure”.
In my view, it is epic in the sense that basic fundamentals such as sanitation needed to ensure that Namibians live a dignified life are shoved under the carpet.

Funny enough, government is now acting all surprised following the outbreak of Hepatitis and the diagnosis of over 100 people, despite the signs having been there all along.
While the Namibian target for drinking-water was met, the target for sanitation was missed dismally, according to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Namibia over the years made commendable achievements in the water sector where, according to the 2013 Namibia Demographic and Health Survey Report, over 87 per cent of the households in Namibia have access to improved water supply. However, only 34 per cent of the population have access to improved sanitation as indicated by the same survey report.

All these shortcomings must be addressed with the same urgency applied by politicians when they are fighting for survival during elections-both at party and national level.
Deliberate attempts must be taken to pull our people from the trenches of poverty, it all starts with the basics.

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