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Millennium goals missed: Sanitation, clean water in Africa

Millennium goals missed: Sanitation, clean water in Africa

Apr 9, 2014

A recently-published study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has found that no sub-Saharan African country will meet the UN Millennium Development Goal for sanitation in 2015, and that achieving the target for clean drinking water is also not looking feasible. The Millennium goal calls for cutting in half the number of people who lacked clean toileting facilities in 1990.

A joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF in 2013  said over 2 billion people will remain without access to improved sanitation by 2015, the year the sanitation goal was due to be met. This is one-third of the world’s population.

The report also noted that the world has met the target of a 50% reduction cutting in the proportion of people who have no access to improved sources of water, some five years ahead of schedule. Mathew Freeman of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, however, says the report is “deceptive” as it seems that the global goal is primarily being met by emerging countries in Asia, obscuring the reality of adequate water supply availability elsewhere.

Freeman is reported as saying that the rapid urbanisation and investment in infrastructure in China and India have led to dramatic changes in access to improved water supply, ensuring the global target was met even while few countries in sub-Saharan Africa have met those targets. Burkina Faso, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Swaziland and Uganda are among the listed few.

Research suggests the availability of clean water is highly variable in sub-Saharan Africa, ranging from 3.2% in some districts of Somalia, to as high as 99% in Namibia’s urban centres. Adequate sanitation facilities across the region are equally inconsistent: In poorer rural areas, households were two to 18 times less likely to have access to improved sanitation and two to 80 times more likely to defecate in open areas compared to more modern rural areas.

Basic infrastructure in regions with the least access to clean drinking water and sanitation is vital to reducing the spread of infectious diseases and, according the study authors, making the data available points up inequity hidden by national statistics.

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