#Article (Archive)

Water and Sanitation are an Essential Foundation

Apr 16, 2008, 6:04 AM

Have we forgotten about water and sanitation? There are many problems facing us on our road to National Development but access to clean water and proper sanitation must be among the top issues we tackle.

Recently released figures from the World Health Organisation suggest that the world is in the grip of a "water crisis." This crisis is now responsible for the deaths as many as 5,000 children a day worldwide. These children are dying from entirely preventable diseases. 80% of all illnesses worldwide are caused by unsafe water and every day bad sanitation is killing five times more children than HIV/AIDS. Internationally 400 million school days were lost last year because of disease caused by diarrhoea.

These are starling statistics. Do we have specific figures for The Gambia and what plans does government have in place to ensure all people have access to clean water and proper sanitation?

There is no doubting the excellent work which has been done in the Greater Banjul area on this issue. The safe drinking water available to so many in this area should also be available to those who live up country. The United Nations says that for every dollar spent on sanitation there is a return of nine dollars on that investment.

The issue of water was mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The commitment under the MDG's was to halve the proportion of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015. How much progress have we made in The Gambia? The United Nations currently estimates that 74 countries will miss the goal and that the target will not be reached in sub-Sharan Africa where the number without access to sanitation has actually increased from 335 million to 440 million.

Access to clean water is a basic requirement for life and health. Children can go to school and their parents can work because they are strong and healthy. While there are many other pressing issues we must face this is perhaps the most fundamental. Clean water and proper sanitation will relieve pressure on the health service and also ensure children will be free of illness and able to take full advantage of their educational opportunities. If we address this issue in a comprehensive way the knock-on benefits to our nation will be immeasurable.

"It is not to live but to be healthy that makes a life."