The Department of Water and Sanitation has called on residents to value their sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of illnesses in communities.This comes as the global community commemorated World Toilet Day, which is observed annually on 19 November. World Toilet Day aims to raise awareness about the significance of dignified and safely managed sanitation facilities and inspires action to tackle the global sanitation challenges to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which promises sanitation for all by 2030 and beyond. “We are calling out on residents to have renewed relationships with their toilets. What we have found over time is that conversations about toilets are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this is a conversation we cannot put off as a Department anymore, especially now as the world is faced with a global pandemic,” said spokesperson Sputnik Ratau. Ratau said poor sanitation facilities have detrimental effects on the health of children and adults with underlying health conditions and can lead to other health problems such as dehydration, anemia, and malnutrition. “A poorly kept toilet has devastating consequences not only for one’s health but also the environment, particularly in the poorest and most marginalized communities,” he said. “It is for this reason that as a Department we are advocating for a new vision and approach to sanitation services provision which entails the notion that it should not all be about flushing but effectively managed sanitation,” Ratau added. He said the need to value toilets is of paramount importance as they are an integral part of people’s live hoods and deserve a decent social status. According to Statistics SA, households with access to improved sanitation increased from 49% in 1996 to 82.2% in 2019 in South Africa.
“The Department is aware that there are still approximately 2.8 million households in the country without access to improved sanitation services and is working tirelessly to ensure access improves,” Ratau said.“There is work being done, while wheels are set in motion to continue with to eradicate the bucket toilet system in provinces such as the Free State, Eastern Cape, North West, Northern Cape, and Limpopo province, we urge members of the public to practice good upkeep of their sanitation facilities.” Finding sanitation solutions Under the theme “Valuing toilets”,the World Toilet Day commemorations are used as a platform to raise awareness about daily struggles for proper and dignified sanitation. These awareness programmes are also meant to mitigate sanitation challenges faced by billions of people across the globe, who are living without access to safely managed sanitation. Through this celebration, DWS North West intends to involve key role players such as ordinary citizens to collaborate with the government towards eradicating sanitation backlogs. DWS and partners also utilised the occasion to recognise progress made in reducing the sanitation backlog and further recommit towards making current sanitation services sustainable. Commemoration of World Toilet Day is aimed at, amongst others, stimulating dialogue about sanitation and thus break the taboo that still surrounds this issue. The Day is, in addition, meant to support an advocacy that highlights the profound impact of the sanitation crisis in a rigorous manner and seeks to bring to the forefront health and emotional consequences, as well as the economic impact of inadequate sanitation.