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We must not rest on our laurels

Sep 1, 2015, 10:38 AM

We have set ourselves the target of ending open defecation by 2017, earlier than the time set for other nations around the world, with the general agreement that, by 2030, nations must achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, going by the world’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“Not only has The Gambia spoken loudly to end open defecation, the country has set the bar very high by targeting 2017, 13 years earlier than the rest of the continent,” said the Unicef representative to The Gambia.

However, though The Gambia has made progress in reducing open defecation in the rural area to 4 per cent and 2 per cent nationally in the last few years, we should not relent in the fight to end open defecation in our society.

Sanitation improvement is a never-ending endeavour to protect ourselves from health hazards. It is a fact that the human being generates dirt in his or her surrounding, and has a body that loathes unhealthy condition to protect it from illness or sickness; hence man must always be prepared to make his surroundings hygienic and healthy, as well as to lead a decent life. 

We should not rest on our laurels, because “poor sanitation undermines a country’s social and economic development and has serious health impacts on the population”. It is also a good ground for opportunistic diseases.

There should be access to basic sanitation for all. Therefore, everyone everywhere must have access to a safe hygienic toilet at home, schools, health facilities and public places, through which open defecation can be eliminated in The Gambia.

“Every man, woman, and child deserves the facility of a safe hygienic toilet,” the health minister has said, adding that the Gambia government would be committed to prioritising sanitation, as well as fast-tracking the progress of sanitation to eliminate open defecation and bring better health and dignity to the people.

This is a sound resolve, which must be seen to be done, because lack of toilets “remains one of the leading causes of illness and death among children.”

It has been estimated that around 2 million children die each year in least developed countries from pneumonia and diarrhea illnesses, which are largely preventable with improvement in water, sanitation and hygiene.

“Lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities and clean water prohibits a nation from attaining other development goals, such as maternal and child health, education, gender equality and ending extreme poverty and hunger.”

It is, therefore, essential that we work extra hard to ensure we end open defecation and maintain improved sanitation and hygienic conditions in The Gambia.

“Poor sanitation can cause ill health is well-known but the new study finds open defecation leads to children with low birth weights and an increased risk of pre-mature births...”
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