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Better sanitation will save health, resources

11th May 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

Inadequate waste management reflected in the piles of solid waste on roadsides and waste water flowing from broken sewers in many of our major urban centres is a growing health hazard in the country.

Some years back a group of students from the US launched an initiative aimed at tackling the problem of sanitation in Tanzania after noting the serious consequences of its neglect in most Third World countries.

They wrote and we quote in extenso:  “The waste generated in Tanzania as well as in other countries that do not have proper disposal means creates unsanitary living conditions and detrimental health concerns, such as diarrhea and malnutrition, in addition to a range of sicknesses and diseases. Internationally, these problems triggered by improper sanitation efforts can be traced back to about 68% of all deaths for children under the age of five. Today, it is estimated that there are about 2.6 billion people (980 million children) living in the developing world who have yet to gain access to proper sanitation means, of which 572 million are living in Africa. Approximately 62% of people in Africa lack the access to adequate sanitation facilities. This results in health and living conditions being crippled, hence affecting nearly every aspect of life.”

They continue: In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on average, only 1,800 of 2,600 tons of waste thrown away is collected and disposed of properly. When discarded waste is poorly managed, piled on the ground, and left to decay, it can draw pests, snakes, and other rodents and cause environmental pollution that can result in the spread of toxins or disease in a community. When children play near or in worse cases, in the waste, they are more likely to be exposed to agents, pathogens and infections that can lead to conditions such as malaria and diarrhea. In Tanzania, without proper waste management diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, scabies, eye infections, typhoid, cholera and intestinal parasites can spread quickly in persons and communities. Each year, it is estimated that 100,000 people die from malaria in Tanzania, 90% of which are mothers and young children. Worldwide, 8% of children die of malaria each year, and 17% from diarrhea related infections, 88% of which is due to contaminated water sources. Even more alarming is that the sole number of children dying from diarrhea worldwide, coming to approximately 5000 deaths each day.

Whether the students made any headway in tackling the problem is not the issue. The fact that they identified it as a major cause of the many ailments that afflict our people should prompt us to address it.

For it is true that many of our neighbourhoods still exhibit piles of refuse and foul smelling stagnant water from broken sewers, with little being done to rectify the situation.
The result is the demand for a bigger health budget allocation to handle some of the ailments caused by unsanitary living conditions.

Yet for far less investment in an efficient waste disposal system, the situation can be reversed, with not only huge budget savings, but the release of the huge productive force, previously held down by preventable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition, to name but a few.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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