Report: African women lack access to proper sanitation

Pit latrine
A dilapidated pit latrine. WaterAid estimates that 297 million African women and girls lack safe and adequate sanitation posing a threat to their health and safety.  FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Africa may miss out in achieving the millennium goal of ensuring environmental sustainability by halving the population without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, report says.

UN special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque, in a press statement, said that access to sanitation remained a great challenge to many people and was an indicator to global inequality.

"Access to sanitation currently ranks as the most-off track of the Millennium Goals, and one that will obviously not be met by 2015," she said.

The UN Millennium Development Goals figures note that 7,500 people globally died every day due to a lack of sanitation and of those, 5,000 were children aged below five years.

“Those with no access to adequate sanitation are overwhelmingly people living in poverty, marginalised and excluded individuals and groups. Lack of sanitation will keep them sick, away from school and work, victims of violence when trying to find a place to hide to 'do their business' and not able to break the cycle of poverty and exclusion in which they are trapped," said Ms Albuquerque

An international NGO concerned with increasing global access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, WaterAid, estimates that 297 million African women and girls lacked safe and adequate sanitation.

Vulnerable position

In a message to mark the World Toilet Day, the organisation lamented that 107 million women and girls did not have a toilet at all.

Statistics in their databank showed that seven in 10 women in sub-Saharan Africa had no access to a safe toilet, thus exposing them to ill health and violence.

A survey conducted by WaterAid in October 2012, across five slums in Lagos Nigeria showed that one in five women had received some form of verbal harassment, intimidation or been physically assaulted while going to the toilet.

“When women don’t have a safe, secure and private place to go to the toilet, they are exposed and put in a vulnerable position and when they relieve themselves in the open, they risk harassment. Women are reluctant to talk about it or complain, but the world cannot continue to ignore this,” Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid, said in the press statement

The survey was conducted in the five slum areas of Ajegunle, Ijora, Badia, Oko Agbon and Otto-Oyingbo revealed that 40 per cent of the women used informal outside locations, while 68 per cent lamented that the cost of accessing public toilets was an additional challenge for them.

Ms Frost explained that the lack of access to sanitation also affected productivity as women and girls affected spent 220 billion hours annually looking for a place for relief.

The World Toilet Day is marked annually on November 19, drawing attention to global issues of sanitation.

This year’s theme highlights the risks women and children face from poor sanitation.

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