Water Sanitation and Hygiene
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project has components for access to safe water, environmental sanitation and improved hygiene practices. The aim of the first component is to improve community access to and utilization of safe drinking water. The second component aims to improve access to basic sanitation hygiene for better health outcomes for children.
According to the 2004 assessment of water supply in The Gambia, only 65 per cent of the population has access to safe water and 23 per cent to sanitary excreta disposal facilities (Department of Water Resources, 2004). Whilst access to safe water is above the West and Central African regional coverage of 58 per cent, more work is needed to achieve the global target of 74 per cent by 2015 (Department of Water Resources, 2004). UNICEF works with Government and other partners in laying the foundations for improved health of children and their families , through school and community hygiene education and promotion , sanitation and safe water supply interventions.
Safe water is essential to the health of children, and waterborne diseases lead to child illness and death. UNICEF supports Government’s departments of Water Resources and Community Development in building a safe environment within communities and schools. Through intervention zones in the Upper River Region and Kanifing Municipality, safe water points and improved pit latrines are constructed to improve access to safe water and basic sanitation. Wells are chlorinated to help make the water safe and prevent the threat of cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases. Household water treatment is promoted for families to practice.
Sanitation coverage is below regional coverage of 35 per cent, requiring intensified efforts in order to reach the global target for 65 per cent in 2015(Department of Water Resources, 2004). The second project component aims to improve access to basic sanitation and improved hygiene for better health outcomes for children. WASH activities focus on hygiene education and promotion, and the provision of sanitary facilities. UNICEF and its partners provide hygiene training materials to schools and communities. Health staff at facility level is trained on management of diarrhoeal and other water- and sanitation-related diseases. The project is implemented in the Upper River Region and the two urban settlements of Kanifing Municipality – Ebo Town and Talinding. Inadequate access to safe water supply and sanitation coverage is critical in the Upper River Region, a region which has among the worst indicators nationally for children and where 39 per cent of the population does not have access to safe water, and Ebo Town, which was at the centre of the 2005 outbreaks of cholera.
To better address the issues of sanitation the country, the Government of The Gambia, with UNICEF's support, has developed a National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy, which will soon be validated and distributed to all partners.