115 deaths hourly from poor sanitation, new study reveals

Umande Trust Technical Officer Charles Omondi shows some of the prototype low-cost latrine technology during the World Toilet Day celebrations in Nyando, Kisumu County on November 19, 2019.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega| Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Human excreta and the lack of adequate hygiene responsible for transmission of many infectious diseases.
  • Faecal contamination causes an annual average of 3,500 cases of cholera in Kenya.

About 115 people die every hour from excreta-related diseases in Africa and huge economic losses, a new study has shown.

As the world marked World Toilet Day, the new research by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), notes that poor sanitation continues to pose major health, environmental and socioeconomic risks in many African countries like Kenya.

Human excreta and the lack of adequate personal and domestic hygiene are responsible for the transmission of many infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, and schistosomiasis among others.

Faecal contamination causes an annual average of 3,500 cases of cholera in Kenya. However, the cost of an effective water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response is estimated to be Sh241 million (USD 2.2 million) per year in Kenya.

Faecal sludge management is the collection, transport, and treatment of faecal sludge from pit latrines, septic tanks or other onsite sanitation systems.

Faecal management

“The scale and threat of poor faecal sludge management can be turned on its head if we look at the government and business opportunities that can galvanise real change in health and livelihoods in marginalized communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation,” said Dr Habib El-Habr, Coordinator of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) at UNEP.

The research paper, Faecal Sludge Management in Africa: Socio-economic Aspects, Human and Environmental Health Implications, explores current trends in faecal sludge management and how they are impacting human and environmental health in the region, and provides guidance on enhancing wastewater management and sanitation services delivery across the continent.

It was launched on World Toilet Day, which celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. As population growth skyrockets – the continent’s urban population is projected to triple by mid-century – so too does the volume of fecal sludge and wastewater the report notes. 

Population growth and urbanisation; over-reliance on financial aid for construction of treatment plants; low revenue generation from users of treatment facilities; poor operation and maintenance, and inefficient institutional arrangements for fecal sludge management re some of the factors hindering sustainable management of faecal sludge, the study adds.

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