Friday, August 26, 2016

Poor sanitation huge barrier to a better future for Africa

Africa is a continent of astonishing potential. But if it is to build the future its citizens deserve, we have to see increased effort to remove the barriers holding it back. None is greater than poor sanitation - a shadow hanging over the lives and prospects of hundreds of millions of people on the continent and across the world.

Nearly one billion people globally are forced to defecate in the open. As many have to live with inadequate sanitation. Both situations lead to the contamination of water and food and the spread of disease. The costs – human and economic – are huge which is why it is so disappointing that the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation was the one furthest from being achieved.

The impact on health of this failure is enormous. Diarrheal diseases, caused overwhelmingly by poor sanitation and unsafe water, remains one of the top ten causes of death worldwide according to the WHO, killing 1.5 million people in 2012.

The damage from a lack of sanitation goes far beyond health. The lack of toilets puts the personal safety of girls and women at risk. It’s one of the major reasons why so many girls drop out of school, robbing them of an education and their communities of their talents.

It’s not just a human tragedy but a huge economic burden on already hard-pressed countries. New research prepared by LIXIL and Oxford Economics has put the annual cost of poor sanitation for low and middle income countries at $222.9 billion. These cumulative costs include those from early loss of life, providing health care and the impact on productivity of sickness.

It is the largest countries like India, the research shows, which shoulder the highest national cost burden. But if you look at these costs nation-by nation as a share of GDP to work out their impact on a society, then countries from sub-Saharan Africa make up half the top ten. In Niger, poor sanitation costs 2.7 per cent of GDP and the figure is nearly one per cent across the continent as a whole. Africa simply can’t afford this loss. 

Even more worrying is that the research shows these annual costs for Africa have risen by 24.5 per cent in the last five years and now stand at over $19 billion. It also underlines the terrible toll poor sanitation is taking across the continent by revealing that premature deaths account for 75 per cent of these total costs in Africa compared to just 55 per cent globally.

This is why sanitation and hygiene must again figure high on the agenda [this week] as Japanese and African heads of state gather in Nairobi for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development and in Stockholm as businesses, political leaders and others gather for World Water Week.
This complex challenge is made more difficult because sanitation solutions used in developed world cannot be transplanted to the slums or rural areas of Africa. The infrastructure is too costly to build and maintain and too wasteful of resources. Water across many parts of the continent, for example, is already scarce and becoming scarcer because of climate change.

It is not all bleak news. Not long ago Bill Gates rightly said not many of the smartest people were involved in finding sanitation solutions for those in low income countries. That’s no longer the case, thanks in part to the role he has played in pushing it up the global agenda.

I am proud that LIXIL is bringing all its experience as a world-leader in water technology to help find solutions. With a wide variety of partners, we are developing affordable and effective solutions which will meet the needs of poorest communities.

We introduced, for example, the cost effective and hygienic Safe Toilet (SaTo) products in 2013 and over one million have now been installed in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean for as little as $2 dollars a unit. They are helping transform sanitation and such is the demand and need, we aim to have installed 20 million by 2020.

Co-inventor Jim McHale (right) field tests a new model of the SaTo
Considerable progress has been made in recent years across the industry in recognising the challenge. But there is no time to waste. Every year the cost in human misery and lost prosperity keeps rising. Overcoming this challenge requires even greater effort and co-operation from governments, businesses, and civil society.

Governments must commit to national sanitation strategy with stretching but achievable targets backed by increased funding – public, private and a mix of both. National efforts must also include a new emphasis on education so the citizen understands the need to use and look after sanitation facilities when they are provided.

Innovation and partnership are absolutely critical. We need more innovation in technology and delivery so we find new, affordable and sustainable ways of bringing sanitation to those at the bottom of the pyramid. This will be encouraged by more collaboration and public-private partnerships so knowledge and experience is shared.

There are exciting developments going on in Africa and round the world to provide sanitation to the communities who need it most. By stepping up our collective efforts, we will remove a huge barrier to a better future for this continent.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Adding hygiene to school curriculum

As part of its nationwide hygiene and sanitation campaign Dettol Banega Swachh India, RB India and State Government of Telangana have joined hands to launch Hygiene Curriculum in 200 schools across four districts in Telangana.

At a launch event in Hyderabad, Health Minister of Telangana, C. Laxma Reddy launched the Hygiene Curriculum in the state and also unveiled its e-version.

Developed by RB India in partnership with XSEED and Butterfly Edufield, the Hygiene Curriculum has been developed in four languages – Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu - and comprises student workbooks, teachers’ manual and innovative teaching aids.

The curriculum consists of 45 lessons which will be delivered over a period of 3 years and covers 5 modules like Personal Hygiene, Hygiene at Home, and Hygiene at School, Hygiene in the Neighbourhood and Hygiene during Illness.

The curriculum will be used in 10,000 schools across the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu and aims to educate 2.5 million children.

In Telangana alone, more than 400 teachers across 200 schools have been trained to conduct Behaviour Change Communication sessions for school children from Class I to V.

In line with WASH delivery model, each school will also be provided consumable such as soaps; liquid had wash, towels, buckets etc. To facilitate an effective implementation of this program, Academy of Gandhian Studies - Tirupati, Modern Architects for Rural India (MARI) - Hyderabad, Mandal Education Officer and District Education Officers have been actively involved in the Project with support from members of the local Gram Panchayats.

Furthermore, to assess the impact of the hygiene curriculum programme, stringent hygiene indicators have been devised as part of the initiative.

On this occasion Nitish Kapoor, Regional Director – RB South Asia said, “We understand the importance of driving behavior change for a cleaner and healthier India and also the role children can play in this journey.

They are the future of the country and it is important to inculcate good habits in them from the beginning. Today we are proud to partner with State Government of Telangana to formally launch the Hygiene Curriculum as a part of “Dettol Banega Swachh India” initiative.

We are quite positive about the long term impact this will have on school children across the state in driving the nation towards Swachh Bharat.” The national hygiene curriculum programme has so far covered over 5,000 schools across 6 states.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Open defecators caught with pants down given civic lessons

As the deadline for making villages `open defecation free’ is fast approaching , officials in Faridabad have adopted a novel method to ensure it is not missed.

They wake up in the dead of night, rush to remote villages and catch red-handed people defecating under bushes and open farmlands. They then take help of the village elders to teach them civic lessons.

There are 116 panchayats in Faridabad district alone, out of which 47 have woman sarpanchs.
The district administration of Faridabad set the deadline of August 15 for making these 47 villages free from open defecation. A detailed presentation was made by senior state government officers before all 116 sarpanchs in Faridabad recently.

After being educated on how open defecation causes health hazard and how cleanliness improves the quality of life, the sarpanches took oath to make their villages free from open defecation.

Two dates were finalised . For 47 villages headed by women sarpanches, August 15, 2016 is the deadline. For the remaining villages headed by male sarpanches, November 1, 2016 is the deadline for making the villages free from open defecation.

“We educate people in our village to use toilets and do not go for open for defecation”, said Kamlesh, Sarpanch of Samaipur village. “Some people living on rent in our village mostly defecate in the open. But we have told them that by August 15 our village has to be free from open defecation”, she said.

But with the deadline approaching, officials cannot take a chance. They started visiting the villages open defecation is prevalent.

Government officers hold meetings at the spot where people defecate in the open. “It becomes difficult for villagers to meet due to the bad smell. We make them realize the bad effects of open defecation on their health”, said a senior state government officer.

“I visit such villages early in the morning, especially areas where people defecate in the open. Yes, I do see some people with bottles of water, defecating in the open”, said Upendra Singh, district consultant, Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).

“I and some elders in the village advise such people,” Upendra said.

A civic lesson in progress
An old lady Ramvati, 70, a resident of Samaipur village, remains deployed with a lathi in her hands at a particular point in the village where people defecate. “When people come for defecation, my mother questions them and sends them back home,” said her son Harish. “ She advises them to use the toilet and the people follow,” he added.

“ We are confident that even some panchayats headed by male sarpanches will be made free from open defecation by August 15 though their deadline is November 1”, a senior officer said. “The poor who do not have toilets are getting financial assistance for constructing toilets,” the officials said.