World Toilet Day commemorations crucial to Zambia’s sanitation sector

WORLD Toilet Day is an annual global event which is commemorated on November 19 with the aim of raising awareness and inspiring action to tackle global sanitation crisis.

Decent toilets are crucial to the provision of proper sanitation services in every society and without them, communities are prone to various water-borne diseases. Current global statistics indicate that 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet. This is according to the World Toilet Organisation (WTO).
Statistics on poor sanitation appear to be quite gloomy world over and back home in Zambia, they are equally startling. In recent media reports, Water Aid Zambia revealed that 11 million Zambians do not have access to a safe lavatory and that the situation raises public health concerns, leading to death of thousands of children every year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea. Proper toilets are a conduit through which waste water is disposed but where does waste water and human excreta go without adequate sanitation amenities? Without such facilities, human excreta and waste water go out into the environment and spill over even to undesignated places.
At one point, the UNICEF/ World Health Organisation Joint Monitoring Programme shared the same concern and estimated that because of lack of proper sanitation facilities, 2.3 million people practiced open defecation in Zambia and that 80 percent of all diseases were water and sanitation related
Also, Water Aid Zambia revealed that 11 million Zambians do not have access to a safe lavatory and that the situation raises public health concerns, leading to death of thousands of children every year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea.
Though there has been much talk on improving water supply services, waste water management remain a crucial task that most commercial utilities are grappling with. It is a whole lot of work to safely contain, transport, treat and dispose of waste water up unto designated places. The dearth of water and sanitation facilities poses a myriad of health hazards to society. Open defecation for instance in peri-urban and rural areas precipitated by lack of toilets and consequently indiscriminate sinking of pit latrines could not only result to contamination of drinking water but also the spread of water borne diseases.
Therefore, the commemoration of World Toilet Day remains one of the most significant events in the water and sanitation sector. According to the World Toilet Organisation, World Toilet Day is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. Global society especially Zambia which is lagging behind in terms of sanitation services has all reasons to raise awareness on sanitation issues through commemoration of this day. In fact Zambians should begin to have solutions to their own sanitation challenges if Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 6 which aims at ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all could be achieved.
This year’s World Toilet Day theme “Waste Water” stressed the importance of proper transportation, treating and disposing off waste water and many other cross-cutting issues pertaining sanitation. The theme presented a good opportunity to also highlight the significance of a toilet, as it is a conduit for waste water.
Even though it is not within commercial utility’s mandate to build toilets for sanitation lacking communities, they have a responsibility to offer sanitation services such as conduits for transporting sewer and offering vacuum tanker services to dislodge septic tanks. With well-drawn limitations on who should to what and who should execute the other chores, all sector players have a part to play and must continue to push the agenda to end the sanitation deficit.
Since 2013 when the United Nations etched November 19th as World Toilet Day on its calendar, many initiatives on how best global sanitation crisis could be tackled have been proposed but many are yet to materialise. The 2012 United Nations sponsored three million people Sanitation Programme through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Local Government and Housing begun to make significant impact. It was meant to grant 3 million users improved sanitation facilities with hand washing devices in all rural districts by 2015. More remains to be done and there is urgent need to extend the execution periods of such relevant programs.
Sensitisation programmes too could help to mitigate sanitation crisis especially in rural areas where open defecation is prevalent. In Zambia, the water sector and co-operating partners are doing their part in ensuring that the day is known with tangible efforts being made to ensure that more people know the importance of using a toilet.
As a mark up to improve sanitation, alternatives other than water borne toilets are being considered with some sections of co-operating partners calling for waterless sanitation facilities, especially for rural and peri-urban areas where water service and a sewerage network is not available.
The author is public relations officer at Lukanga Water and Sewerage.

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