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Most sub-Saharan African countries lack access to hand washing facilities, says report

More than half of the population in 34 out of 38 sub-Saharan African nations lacks access to basic hand washing facilities, the inaugural Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa says.

Global Handwashing Day
Pupils during the Global Handwashing Day celebrations

This is according to a statement jointly issued on Tuesday, February 2, 2021 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal, all publishers of the report.

According to the organisations, the atlas is a tool to benchmark and propel Africa’s progress toward Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on safe sanitation and wastewater management.

It also aims to help policymakers accelerate change and investment in the sector.

“It recommends investment in the necessary policies, infrastructure and human skills capacities to operationalise actions toward the achievement of goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including those for sustainable sanitation and wastewater management.

“The result of four years of collaboration, the atlas assesses progress and highlights opportunities where investment in sanitation and wastewater management can improve health and spur economic growth.”

The statement added that it incorporates maps, graphics and profiles of all African countries, including analyses of their water resources and provision of basic services.

It also explores the links between sanitation and wastewater and ecosystem health and human health, and discusses frameworks and circular economy approaches that could lead to better infrastructure and systems.

The statement quoted Wambui Gichuri, AfDB’s Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Developmentas saying “Africa could not have a healthy society without adequate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene’’.

“In the past 10 years, the AfDB has invested more than six billion dollars in sanitation and hygiene improvements.

“However, much more financing is needed from the private sector, development finance institutions, governments and other sources.”

He said that the atlas could inform strategic investment going forward.

The report emphasised the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in sharpening an already existing need to upgrade Africa’s water and sanitation infrastructure.

Its authors also urged African governments to incorporate sanitation and wastewater programmes into their post-COVID-19 strategic planning, the statement said.

Leticia Carvalho, Head of UNEP’s Marine and Freshwater Branch, said in the statement that as the world seeks to recover better after COVID-19, prioritising wastewater and sanitation infrastructure in Africa was critical.

She said that SDG Six, which calls for making water and sanitation available to everyone was within reach by 2030 if the needed resources were committed.

In addition to advancing SDG Goal Six, the atlas is expected to promote the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Africa Water Vision for 2025, an initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Bank and the AU.

Clever Mafuta, Head of Waste Programme at GRID-Arendal, also said in the statement that a wealth of information on practical and transformative solutions for wastewater management and the provision of sanitation services had been gathered.

This, he added, could help to boost public health and secure the sustainability of Africa’s natural resources.

By Folasade Akpan

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