Namibia is rated the worst in hygiene in southern Africa, with 75% of the rural population still practising open defecation.
This was revealed in a study compiled by WaterAid, an international organisation that strives to improve access to safe water and sanitation in the world’s developing countries.
The study report, dated 18 June 2018, looked at the state of hygiene across southern Africa, and focused on hygienic practices, enabling environments and institutional arrangements “for the promotion of hygiene behavioural change and key policy and programme bottlenecks for the prioritisation of hygiene” in the region.
It revealed that, with the exception of South Africa and Swaziland, about half of the rural populations of southern African do not have access to basic sanitation.
Namibia was rated as having the most unsafe rural areas in the region, closely followed by Madagascar and Mozambique.
Namibia also rated low in terms of household drinking water.
The proportion of the Namibian population which practises open defecation is the highest in SADC, according to WaterAid. Access to basic sanitation is, however, higher in urban areas of southern Africa.
Most rural populations, and in some cases a significant proportion of urban areas, do not have access to piped drinking water in their homes.
In addition, the study found that the high rate of poor sanitation across southern Africa was attributed to systematic policy failures, and a lack of data on sanitation and hygiene.
The study also indicated that there were limited efforts by SADC member states in terms of budgeting for sanitation.
Only Botswana has consistently dedicated funding for hygiene.
“A lack of dedicated coordination mechanisms means there is no champion for greater inclusion of hygiene in sector processes and financial allocation. This bottleneck can only begin to be addressed when the profile of hygiene is raised by strengthening the existing evidence base, and developing targeted advocacy to the policymakers who ultimately influence allocations,” the study said.
While other countries provided data on food and menstrual hygiene, Namibia had no data on these topics.
WaterAid’s regional representative, Chilufya Chileshe, said SADC countries need to invest more in water and sanitation infrastructure to improve hygiene in the region.
She added that countries should also integrate hygiene into their developmental policies to ensure that it was not overlooked.
In most countries, only 1% of the total budget allocated to water and sanitation went to hygiene, and some countries completely overlooked it in their budgetary allocations.
“We found that only 1% of the funding that goes to water and sanitation is dedicated to hygiene in the region. In most countries, it cannot even be tracked. They will say the hygiene is part of the sanitation, or they will have funding, but then no hygiene promotion ever happens.
“We know that a large number of our population is collecting water from outside locations, which we have not bothered to improve for a long time, and the investment is very minimal. It all comes down to prioritisation,” she stressed.
“We think there should be better financing, coordination, political leadership, and we need to improve our monitoring. As the political leaders discuss the issue of infrastructure at this summit, we want to remind them that infrastructure should include the broad spectrum of water and sanitation as well,” Chileshe added.
The 38th SADC summit of heads of state and government kicked off on Thursday in Windhoek, and will be concluded on Sunday, 19 August. Namibia will assume the SADC chairmanship this Friday.