Water, sanitation and hygiene
Poor access to water and sanitation facilities, and unsafe hygiene practices are the main causes of diarrhoea, one of the main child killers in Eastern and Southern Africa. In many communities across the region, women and girls are in charge of fetching water, a household chore that can easily take up large parts of their day, resulting in critical time lost for learning. Well too often, girls are forced to skip classes or drop out of school all together, because there are no separate toilets that could guarantee a minimum of privacy.
An analysis of data from 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 48 per cent of the region’s population, reveals that women and girls bear primary responsibility for water collection, at considerable cost in terms of their time.
Improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are critical for child survival. The availability of these services also plays an important role in mitigating opportunistic infections among people living with HIV and AIDS, in enhancing girls' education, in ensuring privacy and dignity, particularly in informal settlements and thus overall in improving the quality of life, particularly among poor population groups.
However, Eastern and Southern Africa as a region still has a long way to go to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of improving access to safe water and sanitation. Only six of the 21 countries in the region, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Afria, Swaziland, are on track to meet the related target under MDG 7 of reducing the proportion of the population without access to safe water by half between 1990 and 2015. Geographical disparities are vast, with 87 percent of people in urban neighborhoods having access to improved drinking water sources compared to 59 percent of the population in rural areas.
Access to sanitation is even more lagging behind. Since 2000, increases in sanitation coverage have not been sufficient to match population growth in the region. To meet the MDG target of improved sanitation coverage, five times more people will need to gain access every year. Out of the 21 countries, only three countries, Angola, Botswana,and South Africa, are on track to meet the MDG target of reducing the proportion of people without sanitation by half. Open defecation – the unhealthiest sanitation practice of all – is still commonplace in some countries. In Ethiopia, Namibia and Mozambique, for example, the proportion of people who practice open defecation stands at 46, 52 and 41 percent, respectively.
Progress towards the MDGsProgress towards the MDG drinking water target, 2010 (Source: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012 Update. UNICEF, WHO)
Progress towards the MDG sanitation target, 2010 (Source: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012 Update. UNICEF, WHO)
UNICEF in action
UNICEF in actionWorking directly with governments, international partners, local non-governmental and community-based organizations as well as with communities and families themselves, UNICEF supports the strengthening of policies as well as of institutional capacities at all levels, and decentralized management of water sources. UNICEF further helps to ensure that households have access to secure supply of water, and to safe and convenient sanitary facilities. A key focus is on social mobilization and behaviour change.
Through hygiene promotion, especially the promotion of hand washing with soap, UNICEF works towards maximizing the health benefits for the survival, growth and development of each and every child.
In schools, UNICEF supports the installation of separate and decent sanitation facilities for students. This can contribute significantly to the reduction of school dropout rates, especially among girls. UNICEF also promotes hygiene education in schools and helps children to become agents of change in their families and communities.
UNICEF is also the global cluster leader for water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies in addition to its own mandate in emergencies – the Core Commitments for Children (CCCs) in humanitarian action. UNICEF further supports countries in emergency preparedness and response.
Results for childrenIn 2010 alone, about 4.5 million people in 14 countries Eastern and Southern Africa got access to water and about 2 million were connected to sanitation facilities through UNICEF supported programmes.
In 2010, nine countries in the region had sanitation-specific policies compared to only three countries at the outset of the International Year of Sanitation (2008). Eleven regional countries have a national plan towards achieving the MDG target for sanitation, and a number of countries made progress in allocating discrete budget lines for sanitation and hygiene.
The number of countries in the region with national behaviour change communication programmes that promote hand washing with soap is gradually increasing. The Global Hand Washing Day, which was introduced in 2008, helps galvanize efforts around this important initiative. In 2010, a total of 14 UNICEF country offices in the region supported the commemoration of the Global Hand Washing Day in partnership with governments, development partners and the private sector.
UNICEF Country Offices in Kenya and Zambia are working with media partners to disseminate an animated cartoon series, ‘SOPO’. Developed in Malawi, the ‘SOPO’ campaign educates children and their parents about proper hygiene practices, reminding them to wash their hands before preparing food and eating, and after using the toilet or changing diapers.
UNICEF across Eastern and Southern Africa promotes and supports the implementation of a Community Approach to Total Sanitation (CATS) - an initiative focusing on building demand and encouraging entire communities to abandon open defecation. Eight countries have reported unprecedented numbers of communities becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF) with correspondingly high numbers of people gaining access to household sanitation by using their own solutions and capacities. Countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique have adopted CATS as a key national strategy to scale up sanitation. Five other countries have taken the first steps towards initiating and implementing CATS.
In the area of water, UNICEF has made significant progress in scaling up household water treatment and safe storage, particularly in emergency settings in the region. As emergency cluster lead for water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as a key partner in the WHO-led health cluster, UNICEF responded to a series of crises in 2009, including cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia.
Four countries, Burundi, Malawi and Tanzania and Zambia are now mapping the availability of improved water and sanitation facilities in schools. As a result, Zambia has allocated funds in its state budget for 2010 to improve school sanitation.
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