32% of Africans still practice open defecation – WHO

World Health Organisation Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, says 27 per cent of Africans in rural areas and 5 per cent of those in the urban areas still practice open defecation. 

She said this on Saturday in a message to commemorate the World Toilet Day 2022. World Toilet Day is celebrated annually to tackle global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: “Water and sanitation for all by 2030.”

This year’s theme, “Sanitation and groundwater,” focuses on the impact of the sanitation crisis on groundwater.

Dr. Moeti stressed that between 2000 and 2020, Africa’s population increased from 800 million to 1.3 billion and another 290 million people gained access to at least basic sanitation services during the same period.

“However, 779 million people still lack those basic services. Of these, 208 million still practice open defecation. 

“Access to safely managed sanitation services, in combination with safely managed drinking water services and good hygiene practices, is fundamental to ensuring public health. 

“It leads to fulfilling the SDG 6 targets and is essential for the realization of all other sustainable development goals.

Also, WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report on progress on drinking water and sanitation highlights the fact that only 29% of health care facilities in Africa have basic sanitation services.

According to the Joint Monitoring Programme 2020 data, 33% of households in Africa have basic sanitation services, with 21% using safely managed sanitation facilities. Two out of three people lack safely managed sanitation services. 

“We must work on average four times faster to ensure everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. The connection between sanitation and groundwater cannot be overlooked.

In densely populated urban settings, pit latrines and septic tanks sited close to water points that draw from shallow aquifers create potentially serious health risks.

“This has a profound impact on public health and environmental integrity. For women and girls, in particular, toilets at home, school and at work help them fulfil their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy. 

The indignity, inconvenience, and danger of not having access to safely managed sanitation is a barrier to their full participation in society.

She noted that safely managed and properly sited sanitation protects humans and groundwater from faecal waste pathogens. 

A safe and sustainable sanitation system begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible, and dignified setting. Toilets drive improvements in health, gender equality, education, economics, and the environment.