|Pix by UNICEF|
A Health Specialist at the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has described poor sanitation as a poverty trap for small-earning households.
“Recent estimates have shown that national coverage for improved sanitation is only 67 percent and in some regions, it is as low as 31 percent,” Mr. Momodou K. Cham said on March 10, 2011.
He was speaking at the opening of a day-long Validation on The Gambia National Strategy for Sanitation and Hygiene at the Office of the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) in Banjul. “I find the statistics very disturbing as time is running to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target in 2015,” he stressed.
He said the challenge is enormous and requires translating the policy into action, prioritise sanitation on the national development agenda and engage community-base approaches such as Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).
He said a series of World Bank studies and experimental evidence have shown in recent years that the economic cost of poor sanitation is as high as 1 percent of Gross Domestic Product, GDP (the total value of all goods and services produced in a country in a year) both in middle and low income countries.
“Improved sanitation contributes to socio-economic development through better health, greater household productivity and a clearer environment,” he noted.
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, Department of State for Health, Mr. Sanna Jawara said the development of a national strategy for sanitation and hygiene is critically important. It is expected that through this strategy, Gambia’s objective of basic sanitation will be achieved.
For his part, the Consultant Mr. Burama Keba Sangai said in his presentation that sanitation is an issue that impacts more on households and communities. As per the strategy, he said its vision is to realize a healthy and dignified living environment for all communities.
2008 was declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the “International Year of Sanitation” in recognition of its impact on public health, poverty reduction, economic and social development and the environment.
At the AfricaSan + 5 Conference in Durban, South Africa and the 11th African Union Summit in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, African leaders pledge “…to establish, review and adapt national sanitation and hygiene policies within 12 months of the AfricanSan 2008, established one national plan for accelerating progress to meet national sanitation goals and the MDGs by 2015, and take the necessary steps to ensure national sanitation programmes are on track to meet these goals”.
The Validation workshop was meant to provide critical and technical comments to add value to the document in aspects of accuracy, language and comprehensiveness.