Open defecation remains a problem

Only 34% of Namibians have access to proper toilets, dropping as low as 14% in the rural areas.

27 November 2020 | Health

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



It is estimated that 14% of Namibians living in urban areas practise open defecation, while 77% of people living in rural areas do the same.

This is according to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, who was speaking at the handover of new toilets to the community at the Okahandja Park informal settlement.

Twenty toilets to the value of N$300 000 were handed over.

The toilets form part of the Basic Needs Project, which seeks to provide sustainable, affordable and homegrown sanitation solutions.

“Its overall objective is to provide decent sanitation to all Namibians and it represents an important partnership between the private sector, public sector and the people of Namibia,” Shifeta said. He said at the heart of the project is the need to restore the dignity of urban residents through access to decent and environmentally friendly sanitation solutions.



Health hazard

According to him, access to decent sanitation has become an increasing challenge caused mainly by the ongoing expansion of informal settlements. “It is also equally challenging that many of our rural areas have developed without any formal sanitation-related infrastructure.”

Shifeta said that open defecation is detrimental to environmental and public health, further spreading diseases such as hepatitis-E.

“We have seen constituencies such as the Samora Machel and Moses Garoëb constituencies here in Windhoek being adversely affected by this and other related diseases.”

He said the installation of toilets and sewerage systems has been a major challenge for both regional and local authorities, and providing the population with safe and reliable water and sanitation services is a priority in Namibia's fifth National Development Plan and for all municipalities.



Majority have no toilets

The spokesperson for the Environmental Investment Fund, Lot Ndamanomhata, said according to a 2015 research report on open defecation in Namibia by the agriculture ministry, only a third of the country's 2.2 million people have access to improved sanitation facilities.

He said the United Nations Children's Fund listed Namibia among the countries with the lowest sanitation coverage in eastern and southern Africa.

“Only 34% of the country's population has access to improved sanitation facilities. That percentage drops to 14% in the country's rural areas. The practice of open defecation, which occurs in 14% of urban areas and 77% of rural areas, increases the spread of diseases and majorly impacts general health.”

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