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Opinion & Analysis

Cholera: Make water, toilets accessible

There are no statistics on how many public schools have running water. FILE PHOTO | NMG
There are no statistics on how many public schools have running water. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Outbreak of cholera shouldn’t be happening in this day and age. The disease is caused by faecal contamination of water or food. It is clearly easy to exterminate with proper hygiene.

However, our response has largely been either curative or issuing edicts to close down food outlets. These responses will not tackle the real issues of insufficient clean water and sanitation.

If we had focused on dealing with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goal number 6 that deals with clean water and sanitation, we could not be experiencing the sort of outbreak that is threatening to affect the tourism industry.

To date, the UN says, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent.

Although public health officials have done a commendable job promoting washing of hands after every bathroom visit, this is a totally useless campaign when there is no water at all.

The irony is the fact that public places that need the water most have the least of it.

Virtually all public schools and universities in the country do not have safe water and sanitation.

The student-toilet ratio is deplorably low. To make the matter worse, some of the available toilets are reserved for top administrators, while others are often closed.

It is perhaps prudent to spend promotional resources on infrastructure first to provide safe water and sanitation to all public institutions.

Water and sanitation are key elements of all our development plans, SDGs and the Vision 2030 but rarely do we seek to innovate new solutions to deal with many problems that no one is willing to speak publicly.

There are no statistics on how many public schools have running water.

Schools know that essential toiletries and other sanitary needs are non-existent.

There are few privileged people who keep these wares in their drawers, causing some uncomfortable moments when visitors seek to use the bathroom.

It is not enough to give excuses that having toilet paper and other sanitary wares in bathrooms will be stolen as it defeats the purpose they were meant for.

The threat of diseases like cholera is far costlier than failure to provide for essentials that promote safe sanitation.

Perhaps most people don’t know the fact that according to the UN data, more that 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases every day.

The seriousness of water and sanitation problem dictates that we turn the problem into an opportunity by leveraging on sensor technology to invent dispensers that trigger an alarm in the event someone attempts to take away these essential needs.

Other inventions could centre on leveraging abundant sunshine to develop water-cleaning solutions. This is an entrepreneurial opportunity.
UN data shows that “at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated.”

To achieve SDG number 6, there is a need for more legislation and enforcement. For example, county governments must build public toilets in all public places like bus stations and supply them with clean water and all other requirements.

More important, each county must have a spatial plan to guide the development of rural urban centres. Good infrastructure lowers the cost of providing services in the long run.

A 2016 study, Towards “Sustainable” Sanitation: Challenges and Opportunities in Urban Areas by Kim Andersson, Sarah Dickin and Arno Rosemarin established how sanitation, when done with a resource recovery and reuse focus, can contribute towards achieving at least 14 of the SDGs.

We have to re-assess our mental attitude towards water and sanitation. As a strategy to meet the SDGs by 2030, we all must rise up to innovate and invest in this critical sector of economic development.

We each have a role to play in the achievement of this goal.

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