Saturday March 22 2014

Set a global goal to improve hygiene

By Simon J. Mone

Yesterday was World Water Day. Let us take inventory of the water and sanitation development stride made. This entails assessing the achievements made towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Whereas the MDG on water is clearly defined, there is currently no global target to improve hygiene. The ever growing population means there is increased demand for water.

As water becomes scarcer for communities especially in highly populated areas and water points, usually women and children who fetch the water find themselves accessing unsafe water or getting embroiled in conflicts as they compete for water access. We, therefore, need to sparingly manage the scarce freshwater resources.

Vulnerable people feel the wrath of inadequate access to water and sanitation. Being unable to walk long distances, the sick, elderly, persons with disabilities, women, children and girls resort to unsafe water. Serious concerns remain about reducing the time spent on walking long distances to water points.

Children have to fetch water before going to school. This not only affects performance in school but also puts their safety at high risk. Cases of rape are being reported regularly.

Sanitation facilities in the rural areas are inadequate. Flush toilets connected to centralised sewer systems are only available to urban residents and in outskirts of cities, sewage flows uncontrolled between houses. It makes contamination of food very easy.

Only a smaller percentage of people are able to afford proper toilets. Hygiene and sanitation needs more financing or else recurrence of sanitation related diseases will continue.

Sick communities will always spend the little they earn on medication thereby creating a less productive population. Accessing clean water and good sanitation will prevent sickness and people would be more productive.
Women, children and girls would therefore not be forced out of school because of constant illness but stay and attend school more regularly. To improve sanitation and hygiene, there is need to develop a global target just like for water.