The UN Environment (UNEP) on Thursday called for better human waste management in Africa, saying poor sanitation has posed major health, environmental and socio-economic risks in many African countries.
A joint study by UNEP and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said that poor faecal sludge management was a major contributor to the 115 deaths per hour from excreta-related diseases in Africa.
It added that improved sanitation had been shown to decrease diarrheal disease by 25 per cent.
Habib El-Habr, Coordinator of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) at UNEP, made the assertion.
“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 marginalised communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation.’’
According to El-Habr, COVID-19 shines a harsh light on the state of proper sanitation in many African countries, for whom improved sanitation should be a key part of green recovery and efforts to prevent excreta-related diseases.
The report is titled “Faecal Sludge Management in Africa: Socio-economic Aspects, Human and Environmental Health Implications”.
The report stressed that countries stood to reap lots of benefits in health, environment and economy once human waste management was prioritised.
It revealed that poor management of human waste and poor sanitation had contributed to huge economic losses on the continent.
El-Habr, however, said that the scale and threat of poor faecal sludge management could be solved only through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
He said that embracing PPP could also help to galvanise real change in health and livelihoods in marginalised communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation.
The report, which was launched on World Toilet Day, raises awareness of some 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation.
The report explores current trends in faecal sludge management and how they are impacting on human and environmental health in the region.
It provides guidance on enhancing wastewater management and sanitation services delivery across the continent.
Olufunke Cofie, principal researcher and country representative for IWMI in West Africa, said that there were feasible and affordable opportunities to further invest in inclusive faecal sludge management, from faeces capture to treatment.
Cofie said that transforming faeces into useful products could help ease the crisis, an initiative that is being demonstrated in Ghana.
“We are reaching a crucial point in managing faecal sludge on the African continent,’’ she added.
The report urges countries to explore current technical innovation for improving the capture, emptying and treatment of sludge, highlighting the good practices.