In an effort to forge greater commitment and action to address sanitation, 80 experts from the USA, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa meet in Windhoek today for a three-day workshop that ends on Thursday.
The workshop comes in the wake of statistics revealing that in Namibia only one-third (33 percent) of the population has access to improved sanitation, with only 16 percent of the rural population having improved sanitation access. Levels of sanitation coverage in some regions are lower than the national average with Ohangwena at 11 percent and Omusati at 17 percent. This leaves the majority of the population with no access to decent toilets, while the public health system is overstretched because of this anomaly. “Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every year, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more,” said Micaela de Sousa, the Unicef representative in Namibia. Hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, in partnership with Unicef, the City of Windhoek, and the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Foundation, the workshop aims to build consensus among sanitanition experts for efforts to scale up sanitation coverage and promote sustainable hygienic behaviour change in the SADC region. While the majority of countries in the eastern and southern African region have made major strides in ensuring their citizens have access to safe drinking water, sanitation remains a major challenge except in South Africa, Angola and Botswana. Lack of progress in this important area will hamper the realisation of MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015, the experts say. The two MDGs are to by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate and to improve maternal health by 2015.
Global reports indicate that about 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to adequate sanitation – that is one in three people in the world. A number of countries in the eastern and southern African region have been receiving capacity-building, advocacy and other institutional support from the CLTS Foundation. Madagascar is one such country, which has made remarkable progress in district and regional coverage. More than 150 fokontanies (subdivisions of communes headed by a chief designated by the mayor)., about 75 Open Defecation Free (ODF) communes and more than 5 ODF districts covering about 6000 ODF villages emerged over the last three years. The country has been gearing up to declare ODF regions in the coming months. Some of these experiences are very rich and need urgent sharing with other countries to enable them to speed up their efforts in faster area coverage in the next 24 months of the MDG period. “The Namibian government has undertaken important efforts in guaranteeing access to clean drinkable water to most if not all in the country. At the same time we recognize the major challenges faced in ensuring that every citizen has access to a safe and clean toilet. Hence we are hosting this workshop, so that we can find ways to address these issues, and learn from one another’s experience,” explained the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa. Workshop participants will be able to share lessons learned, discuss the latest evidence from the region and gain a deeper understanding of the tools at their disposal to respond to the needs of communities.
The workshop will also garnish the commitment of decision-makers to embrace change, come up with a plan of action so that rural areas in particular become Open Defecation Free zones. The Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) regime, which is now being introduced in Namibia has been identified as an innovative and inclusive approach that involves communities in ending open defecation in partnership with government, civil society and other stakeholders. Successful implementation of this approach in Africa has enabled more than 32 countries to roll out the CLTS approach at different scales and have made differential progress. One of the notable delegates will be Kamal Kar the pioneer of CLTS – Community Led Total Sanitation and Chief Macha, Zambia’s chief of chiefs, who will talk about the role played by traditional leaders to influence communities and help them towards ending open defecation.
By Deon Schlechter