– By Loretta Okonkwo:
Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces. The word ‘sanitation’ also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.
When we talk of Sanitation we specifically mean the careful preparation and application done with the very purpose of saving the Individual and Public Health from harm, thereby ensuring their Healthy Living. Prerequisite, in itself, implies the proper condition without which the individual and public healthy living will not be realized.
Sanitation is also defined as an access to, and use of, excreta and wastewater facilities and services that ensure privacy and dignity, ensuring a clean and healthy living environment for all. All the aspects of sanitation in the above definition are necessary to ensure health, privacy and dignity, and therefore constitute a minimum human rights standard.
Traditionally, water supply and sanitation appear together as an inseparable concept in public statements; sometimes hygiene is also included. Water and sanitation is defined as the provision and maintenance of hygiene conditions through services such as garbage collection and waste water disposal. Sanitation and hygiene are key to child survival, development and growth. Of the approximately 120 million children born in the developing world each year, half will live in households without access to improved sanitation, at grave risk to their survival and development. Poor hygiene, lack of access to sanitation and unsafe drinking water together contribute to about 88% of diarrhoea deaths, accounting for 1.5 million diarrhoea-related under-five deaths each year. Women, more than men, suffer the indignity of being forced to defecate in the open, at risk of assault and rape. Girls bear the burden, particularly those old enough to menstruate, are reluctant to attend schools without toilets, and their parents are reluctant to send them.
Access to sanitation has the potential to catalyze development outcomes and improve the quality of life by supporting the realization of other human rights, including the rights to education, health, adequate housing, work, food and water. Lack of access to sanitation is an affliction of the vulnerable and marginalized. A lack of sanitation, including the collection, treatment and disposal or re-use of excreta and wastewater can have a severe negative impact on people’s health and dignity and on the environment. Just a small number of people practicing open defecation can threaten the quality of water resources, which will in turn infringe the right to water and the right to health. The major burden of a lack of sanitation is borne by the very young. Evidence suggests that in addition to causing child deaths by diarrhoea, poor sanitation may also contribute to child deaths resulting from other health conditions, including malnutrition and acute respiratory infections. Further to this, millions of children are left physically stunted, mentally disabled and severely malnourished by excreta-related diseases and intestinal worm infections.
Access to sanitation and good hygiene practices give protection from opportunistic diseases infecting people who are already sick. Women in particular suffer from infections caused by lack of access to hygienic facilities and lack of water for washing during menstruation. Improvements in sanitation and hygiene are the most cost-effective health interventions, yet governments have failed to adequately promote these issues. The resulting costs of treatment of sanitation-related disease drain resources from already weak public health systems. At the household level, the poorest families are forced to use scarce financial resources for health services, which would otherwise be allocated to other important needs, including children’s education, nutrition or to save money for emergencies. Access to sanitation supports other efforts to assist people find a path out of poverty, particularly by reducing the cost of healthcare and reducing the number of working hours lost to ill-health. Easy access to sanitation also frees time for other activities, including for work and education, or improved care of children or the elderly.
Improved sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities and inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease world-wide. Inadequate water and sanitation services adversely affect the health and socioeconomic development of communities. Lack of sanitation is the world’s biggest cause of infection. It is the number one enemy of world health. And it deprives hundreds of millions of people not only of health but also of energy, time, dignity, and quality of life. This issue has been shrouded in embarrassment for too long, hygiene helped by safe sanitation and water supply is what transformed health and productivity in this industrialized countries.
Where adequate sanitation is provided coupled with improved hygiene behaviours the following improvements could be expected:
1. Lower morbidity rates in the population.
2. Lower mortality rates due to diarrhoea.
3. Better nutrition among children.
4. Cleaner environment.
5. Safer food and increased impact of improved water supplies.
6. Better learning and retention among school children.
7. More dignity and privacy for everybody especially women and girls.
8. Increased awareness of the importance of sanitation and hygiene and the need to develop a more permanent strategy.
In conclusion,adequate sanitation, together with good hygiene and safe water, are fundamental to good health and to social and economic development. Improvements in one or more of these three components of good health can substantially reduce the rates of morbidity and the severity of various diseases and improve the quality of life of huge numbers of people, particularly children, in developing countries.
A healthy living man is a sanitized man, therefore, we assert and uphold that Sanitation is a Prerequisite for Healthy Living; we categorically import the fact that what is medically understood as healthy living is not and can never be independent of Sanitation as explained above. It then implies that Sanitation is an indispensable basis for the realization of healthy living.