This year’s World Toilet Day is in the midst of COVID-19. The seriousness of the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic raises awareness of the important health benefits of appropriate toilet hygiene in Africa. It has never been so relevant as when we observe World Toilet Day.
While promising results on the vaccine front are underway, a primary effective, preventative measure against the disease is basic hand washing with soap. Everyone must have sustainable sanitation, along with clean water and hand washing facilities, to protect and maintain our health safety and to stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases such as COVID-19, cholera and typhus, among others.
The consequences of this behavioral change in hygiene practices will take a while to quantify. According to the British Medical Journal, the lancet, has significantly improved hand washing practices in Africa since the outbreak of COVID-19, with access to hand washing stations increasing significantly in community centers, schools, markets, bus terminals and other public spaces in rural and urban areas.
The Bank’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions across the continent have highlighted the importance of basic sanitation, as well as the health, economic and environmental benefits that communities derive from it. In the fight to limit the distribution of COVID-19, the Bank is increasing these messages and funding to expand the impact of WASH programs.
In Africa, 60% of the population – approximately 715 million people – still do not have access to basic sanitation, according to a joint monitoring report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. To address these water and sanitation challenges, the Bank has invested $ 6.2 billion over the past decade in promoting universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water, as well as improved sanitation. It is estimated that 52 million people gained access to improved water supply and sanitation services as a result of these investments. Over the next 12 years, investment in the Bank’s water sector aims to provide an additional 154 million people with these services across Africa. We also advocate for more participation in the private sector as an option for sustainable management and financing of water services.
The Bank and the African Water Facility in 2019 launched the development of the African Urban Sanitation Investment Fund, an initiative to promote innovation and inclusive sanitation services for urban residents of sub-Saharan Africa. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the development of the initiative. It seeks to accelerate the pace of achieving Goal 6.2 of the Sustainable Sanitation Development Goals in Africa
countries by promoting inclusive sanitation throughout the country, focusing on the poor and providing safe access to women and girls.
The Africa Water Facility has promoted innovative urban sanitation projects focusing on low-income groups and disseminating knowledge products on acceptable practices across Africa.
The particular success is that the bank is co-funded “Toilets for everyone” project in Sokode, Togo. The small town of 100,000 people, 350 kilometers outside the capital Lome, has applied innovation and microcredit facilities to improve and expand sanitation services. The project was completed in 2018 and built 688 private toilets in Sokode, which increased access to improved sanitation by 6%. The African Water Facility financed $ 1.4 million from the total cost of $ 1.88 million. A community-based microcredit system provides household toilet facilities to this day.
The program also used a truck to empty fecal sludge from on-site sanitation technologies, such as septic tanks, and transport the sludge for treatment, use, or disposal. Neighborhood committees run an installment program for residents who are eligible for fecal sludge services.
The project’s new sludge treatment plant converts waste into fertilizer that is sold to farmers. The plant also shares its solar-powered pumped water supply system with a neighboring village that previously had no access to drinking water.
The Toilets for All initiative makes a difference in the lives of our people, and it is an example of the meaningful, community-oriented and inclusive sanitation and emergence management development that we are sharpening through funding and advocacy across Africa.
As we mark World Toilet Day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bank calls on its African governments and development partners to make greater efforts to provide access to adequate sanitation and hygiene for all, and to end the defecation in Africa by 2030.
Wambui Gichuri is the Acting Vice President of the African Development Bank for Agriculture, Human and Social Development and also holds the position of Director of Water Development and Sanitation. She oversees the Bank’s more than $ 4.5 billion water sector program, which covers 44 countries and multinational projects.