The UN Environment (UNEP) on Thursday called for better human waste management on Africa, saying poor sanitation poses major health, environmental and socioeconomic risks in many African countries.
A joint study by UNEP and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) says poor fecal 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 percent.
“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 galvanize real change in health and livelihoods in marginalized communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation,” said Habib El-Habr, coordinator of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) at UNEP.
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, titled “Fecal sludge management in Africa: socio-economic aspects, human and environmental health implications,” says countries stand to reap lots of benefits in health, environment and economy once human waste management is prioritized.
It reveals that poor management of human waste and poor sanitation contributes to huge economic losses in the continent.
El-Habr observed that the scale and threat of poor fecal sludge management can be solved only through Public Private Partnership (PPP).
He said that embracing PPP can help galvanize real change in health and livelihoods in marginalized communities in countries struggling with poor sanitation.
The report which was launched on World Toilet Day, which raises awareness of some 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation, explores current trends in fecal sludge management and how they are impacting 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 there are feasible and affordable opportunities to further invest in inclusive fecal sludge management, from feces capture to treatment.
Cofie said that transforming faeces to useful products could help ease the crisis, an initiative that is being demonstrated in Ghana.
“We are reaching a crucial point in managing fecal sludge on the African continent,” the official noted.
The report urges countries to explore current technical innovation for improving the capture, emptying and treatment of sludge, highlighting good practices.