Interview: Expert urges self-sustaining sanitation models for West Africa

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For West African countries to overcome their sanitation challenges, they need to adopt self- sustaining sanitation models, an expert has recommended.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Lakhdar Boukerrou, regional director for the West Africa Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WA-WASH) , said the Post-2015 development agenda should focus on sanitation, equally as it focuses on water.

WA-WASH is an initiative by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for Ghana, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Boukerrou urged governments in the sub-region to find some resources to invest in sanitation so the sector does not solely depend on aid.

"Capital should be available for the water sanitation and hygiene sector. Private sector must be encouraged to invest in sanitation since governments alone can not fund the sector," he said.

In addition to closing the financing gap, Boukerrou also asked for the development of the capacity of the critical human resource for the sector. "Development without human resources and without training of humans to carry out the necessary activities cannot attain the needed goals," he said.

The expert also cautioned against using the same approach of sanitation delivery for the urban and rural settings, as the challenges and technicalities differ between urban and rural settings.

For instance, he explained that the challenges in the urban centers could be the availability of funding, dense populations, urban slams, and wide geographical areas with so many families and individuals.

To stem this challenge, he averred that "different models are needed to ensure that the programs are sustainable and fruitful for each community."

"Trash collection in the urban areas should be more profitable than rural settings," he intimated, adding however that it doesn't mean government should necessarily fund refuse collection and other sanitation services in rural areas.

This however Boukerrou said presents the need for careful planning for policy makers so that they can bring WASH services to the people.

"People are ready to pay for sanitation services if they have enough income generating activities," he said.

In Ghana sanitation lags at a paltry 14 percent against a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of 54 percent, but safe water delivery is just around the 76 percent MDG target set for the country.

Last year, the country experienced one of its worst outbreaks of cholera, a disease caused by exposure to filth, with infections put at 17,000 by the Ghana Health Service and over 150 deaths.

Government responded by instituting a National Sanitation Day, which is in its sixth month and falls on the first Saturday of every month to ensure that filth is eradicated from cities and smaller communities.

Even with the interventions, there were still 304 new cholera cases in the capital in January 2015.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), West and Central Africa recorded 1,683 cholera related deaths between June 2014 and January 2015. Endit

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