Thursday 3rd December 2020
Thursday, 3rd of December 2020
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UNEP calls for better human waste management in Africa

The UN Environment (UNEP) on Thursday, November 19, 2020 called for better human waste management in Africa, saying poor sanitation poses major health, environmental and socioeconomic risks in many African countries.

Habib El-Habr
Habib El-Habr, coordinator of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) at UNEP

A joint study by UNEP and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) says poor fecal sludge management is a major contributor to the 115 deaths per hour from excreta related diseases in Africa.

It added that improved sanitation had been shown to decrease diarrheal disease by 25 per cent.

Habib El-Habr, coordinator of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) at UNEP, made the assertion.

“The scale and threat of poor fecal sludge management can be turned on its head if we look at the government and business opportunities that can galvanise real change in health and livelihoods in marginalised communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation.’’

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According to El-Habr, COVID-19 shines a harsh light on the state of proper sanitation in many African countries, for whom improved sanitation should be a key part of green recovery and efforts to prevent excreta-related diseases.

The report was titled “Fecal sludge management in Africa: socio-economic aspects, human and environmental health implications”.

The report states that countries stand to reap lots of benefits in health, environment and economy once human waste management is prioritised.

It reveals that poor management of human waste and poor sanitation contributes to huge economic losses in the continent.

El-Habr observed that the scale and threat of poor fecal sludge management can be solved only through Public Private Partnership (PPP).

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He said that embracing PPP can help galvanise real change in health and livelihoods in marginalised communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation.

The report which was launched on World Toilet Day, which raises awareness of some 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation.

The report explores current trends in fecal sludge management and how they are impacting human and environmental health in the region.

It provides guidance on enhancing wastewater management and sanitation services delivery across the continent.

Olufunke Cofie, principal researcher and country representative for IWMI in West Africa, said there are feasible and affordable opportunities to further invest in inclusive fecal sludge management, from feces capture to treatment.

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Cofie said that transforming feces to useful products could help ease the crisis, an initiative that is being demonstrated in Ghana.

“We are reaching a crucial point in managing fecal sludge on the African continent,’’ the official noted.

The report urges countries to explore current technical innovation for improving the capture, emptying and treatment of sludge, highlighting good practices. 

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