Int’l Water Institute Highlights Poor Sanitation, Waste Management Risks In African Countries

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By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos

International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has called for improvement on human waste and sanitation management in African countries for better health, environment and economy.
IWMI observed that poor sanitation has continued to pose major health, environmental and socioeconomic risks in many African countries.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) based its recommendation on the findings of a new research it carried out in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

The research paper highlighted ways to improve management, generate industry from human waste, and improve sanitation for cities and households with poor faecal sludge management, the researchers disclosed.
The research paper titled: “Fecal Sludge Management in Africa: Socio-economic Aspects, Human and Environmental Health Implications,” was launched on World Toilet Day.
The World Toilet Day commemorated toilets and raised awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation.

The event explored 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, UNEP Nigeria said in a news release dated 19th November 2020.

According to the two global agencies, poor faecal sludge management is a major contributor to the 115 deaths per hour from excreta-related diseases in Africa, while improved sanitation has been shown to decrease diarrheal disease by 25 per cent. 

Poor faecal sludge management also contributes to huge economic losses, the two bodies said.
They noted that on the continent, poor sanitation leads to losses of approximately 1 to 2.5 percent of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

In the research report, UNEP and IWMI explained that  as population growth skyrockets, the continent’s urban population is projected to triple by mid-century, so too does the volume of faecal sludge and wastewater. 

The emphasized that across West African cities, one person produces between 20-150 litres of wastewater per day, and stated that considering an average daily generation of 1 litre of faecal sludge per person, a city of one million inhabitants will need to collect 1000 m3 every day.
“The scale and threat of poor fecal 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,”  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, said. “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 recommended technical innovations for improving the capture, emptying and treatment of sludge, highlighting good practices, including a programme in Uganda, through which the Kampala City Council Authority worked with the private sector to improve faecal sludge management in the city. 

The programme included a sanitation call centre to strengthen the link between customers, the City Council and private operators, and a GPS tracking system to improve service efficiency and avoid illegal dumping by for private operators,UNEP and IWMI stressed.
They said that treatment plans can generate some revenue for countries and especially for poor communities, converting faecal sludge to compost or biochar for use as fertilizer, or converting to briquettes as fuel for industry. 

According to them, in 2017, Burkina Faso commissioned the first fecal sludge biogas plant in the country, generating electricity to feed into the national grid.
Dr. Olufunke Cofie, Principal Researcher and Country Representative for IWMI in West Africa said: “We are reaching a crucial point in managing fecal sludge on the African continent: there are feasible and affordable opportunities to further invest in inclusive fecal sludge management, from feces capture to treatment and the report explores how transforming poop to useful products could help ease the crisis, as we are demonstrating in Ghana.”
The analysis finds that sustainably managing faecal sludge is hindered by a number of factors, including population growth and urbanization; 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.
The research paper authors called for better coordination of the roles and responsibilities of diverse actors involved in the processes.
The report’s authors stressed the need to invest in sanitation systems and mechanisms to improve faecal sludge management, as well as direct investments – especially to poor households – in order to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

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